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Himal South Asia Volume 9, Number 5, July 1996 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jul 31, 1996

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Vol 9 No 5
July 199€
Kanak Mani Dixit
Contributing Editors
Afsan Chowdhury
Manik de Silva
Beena Sarwar
LAHORE  .■'.
Mitu Varma
Staff Writer
Deepak Thapa
Senior Executive
Basafrta Thapa
Suman Shakya
Sujata Chhetri
Balaram Sharma
Mamata Manandhar.
Chandra Khatiwada
Himal South Asia is published monthly
by Himal inc. Pvt. Ltd.
PO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: +977-1-523845, S22TT3
email: himal@himpc.rriqs.cora rip
Library of Congress Card Catalogue
Number 88 912882
ISSN 1012 9804
Printed at Offset■Pvtitd., Nepal.
Tel: 521393, 536390
Information for New Readers
Himal magazine was started
in 1987 as a journal for th e H ima-
layan region. With the March 1996
issue, the magazine transformed into
the first andonly South Asian magazine. Every month, HIMAL South Asia
provides readers in the Subcontinent and overseas with reportage
and commentary on issues and trends
that affect the region's 1.3 billion
We are now on the Web
Himal's iatest table of contents,
selected articles, subscription information plus other items of interest
are now accessible on Internet.
Media Consultant: Bhrcm Timilsina, Kathmanrfu ph:{9?r-D,4M848
Advertisement Business Representatives:
Fakislai: Aamir fiiai, Gauum Publishers, lahore ph: (92-42) (1364614
India {Easl): K K Lahiri, Dlganukd, CaScuua ph: {91 -33) 3591370 43
A Post-Nationalist South Asia
hy Imtiaz Ahmed
Nation, State and Self-Hatred
by Ashis Nandy
A State and Its Death Sentences
hy Zia Mian
i e t y
For subscription details, see page 30.
The Birds of Nepal,
and a Book
by Deepak Thapa
Book Review
Testing Times: The Global Stake in a.
Nuclear Test Ban
The Conditions of Listening: Essay on
Religion, History and politics
in South Asia
Ideology and Ignorance
Tibetan and Bhutanese Refugees
Celluloid Successes
Universal Hindus
Health and the Hindu
Lure of Danger
Missing Maldives
30 Billion Litres
limitations of Discipline
Fashionable Homogenising
Surpassing the Limits of Suggestion
"Love Thy Neighbour"
Experiments with Caretaker
The Rot at the Top
Hang the Environmentalist
The Priceless Jewel
Janus on Kashmir
Rimpoche Jones, Cool Dude
Free, but Hungry
Who Won in Bangladesh?
A Bhutan-Assam Corridor For Wildlife
Hillman's Rest
Cover: Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (shown below) was painted in 1830 to commemorate the five-day
uprising in Paris that ended the reign of Charles X. When
shown in Ihe 1831 Salon, some critics found the painting of a
bare-bosomed LadyLibertyleading demonstrators slanderous
and ignoble. Filled with Jervour/or his nation state, France,
Delacroix wrote to his brother. "If I did not fight for our
country, at least I will paint forher."
^fiflvi&^^^^^^Wbiiuvtwck enj^&^v^tp&iurlL&i
5ubash Rai. Here, the Lady wears a sari and represents the
nationalist urge in contemporary South Asia.
23      Everything You Wanted to
Know About the World Bank
(in South Asia)
hy Pratap Chatterjee
29      The Shadow Citizens
by Afsan Chowdhury
36      Analysis
Who will Upset
Whose Applecart?
by AC. Sinha
47      Profile
Lyn de Alwis
Sri Lanka's Mr Zoo
by Manik de Silva
50      Mediafile
52      Opinion
by Rishihesh Shah
Idea and Reality, Nepal and Rolpa
by Bill Aitken
Neo-Aryan Bid for Power
56       Saarconomy
A South Asian Labour Right Charter
Why Not?
by Mukul
58      Young SouthAsian
"   Tornado Tales
60      Abominably Yours
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g l'/Wf'f/s//'V#t/u]fSt*#jfi'ii
Renowned for its Tandoori cooking from the
North West Frontier Region of India, the Bukhara is
now open at the Soaltee Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza,
The Bukhara, located by the Poolside, is open for
Lunch and Dinner seven days a week. The meal
in the rugged interiors of the restaurant,
is quite an experience !! You may even take back
a    picture    of    yourself    with    the    Chef,
The Bukhara -  a   World  of a Difference  !!
call    Chef   Bhaskar    Sankhari
For    Reservations    please    call    Chei    Bhaskar   Sankhari    or
Restaurant   Manager   Dilli   Ram   Dhungel   at   27255 5   Extn   6555
Ideology and Ignorance
Having worked with Tibel and Tibetans
for 25 years, I have reached the conclusion that there are basically two reasons
for the South Asian intellectual's lack of
interest in the Tibet issue, a point
highlighted by Tsenng Wangyal (Opinion, May 1996).
First, there is the ideological bias.
South Asia and South America are the
only two places in the world where old-
style communism still lives on. It is still
fashionable, to a certain extent, to be a
communist in these countnes. In Europe
we could easily see what life was like in
the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and
in Southeast Asia, the deternng examples
were China and Vietnam. But in South
Asia, the communist countnes were far
away and so the people never saw the
obvious faults of the communist system.
Although China (Tibet) is geographically
close, it is culturally and politically
Second, ignorance abounds. Even
educated and otherwise well-informed
South Asians are often surprisingly
ignorant about each other's countries and
about other Asian nations. For example,
Indians often tell me that they are making
hefty progress in the telecom sector and
that India now has over ten million
telephone lines. When I tell them
that China installs ten million
telephone lines ever)' year, they
don't believe me.
Another example: the otherwise so
pious and devout Sinhala Buddhists of Sri
Lanka have absolutely no idea about
Buddhism in Bhutan, Tibet or
Mongolia, and they hardly
know anything about the
Tibetan refugees, the Dalai
Lama, etc. Just two weeks
ago, before the Dalai Lama's
visit to Sweden, I told the
chairman ol the Sinhala
Buddhist Association here in
Sweden about his visit (he
had no idea about it although
it had been in the press for
many days) and his response
was: "Is he coming directly
from Tibet?"
This ignorance is, of course, partly
caused by the Western (or Anglo)
complex that still pervades former British
colonies, where people are quite well-
inlormed about the West but take very
little interest in their neighbourhood. The
Indians were not interested in Japan until
the Japanese "discovered" India, and in
three years, look over the entire
two-wheeler market
Because of all this, incidentally, !
think Himal South Asia is trying to do a
very good thing. In your Internet
homepage, you say you want to infonn
Indians about Pakistan, Sn Lankans about
Nepal, etc. That's commendable and
David Stahl
Empatum AB, Stockholm
Tibetan and Bhutanese Refugees
With reference to Tsering Wangyal's
opinion "A Jaundiced View of Tibet" (May
1996), in which he refers to the South
Asian intelligentsia's neglect of
the Tibet issue, as an exiled
Tibetan intellectual in New
Delhi, the writer is, I am sure,
aware ofthe expulsion of
ethnic Nepalis from Bhutan,
And yet, there is great silence
about this on the part of
the South Asian intellectual
as well.
There are by now about
as many Lhotshampa refugees
from Bhutan as there are
Tibetan refugees, and yet the
whole world knows ahout the
latter, while it knows next to
nothing about the former.
To take the matter further afield, as a
Nepali living in Amenca, I remain
concerned as to why there has been
almost total silence in the American media
about the human nghts issue in Bhutan.
And certainly no American intellectual
has to this day, as far as 1 am aware,
said anything publicly about the
persecution of an ethnic people in
yet another Himalayan "Shangn La."
Individuals, like nations, have their
own agenda. They support or ignore a
cause according to how such a cause fits
into their personal or private scheme of
things. Sometimes they are moved to act
out of genuine concern and good will; at
other times, for pnvate, selfish gains
Despite protests, the Linked States
government has once again awarded the
most-favoured nation status to China.
1 have a coffee cup with the following
words: "So many books, so little time." I
will paraphrase that to "So much suffering, so little (selective?) outcry ..."
Rajendra S. Khadka
Berkeley, California
Celluloid Successes
Ramyata Limbu is right ("Back to Square
One", May 1996). Nepali films lack the
glamour and sophistication of Hindi
cinema although Nepali producers copy
the masaladar Bombay-type films of India.
But what surprises most is that producers
have not bothered to take
advantage ofthe beautiful
stories written by Nepali
writers and convert them
into celluloid.
As for not having
our own Satyajit Ray, I
would like it to be
remembered that the
Nepali-speaking world has
had its share of good films
in the past, such as
Paralko Aago, Hijo Aaja
Bholi and Manko Bandh.
Satyajit Ray himself was
quite impressed by Paralko
Aago directed by Pratap Subba and had,
in fact, even booked a theatre to screen
the movie for some of his friends. It
would seem from this that some of our
directors are worthy of consideration.
It is not true that Nepali films
started out as copies of Hindi films.
The deterioration in quality is somehow
linked to the change in the movie-
going public from being of the
upper and middle classes to that
of the lower classes. Producers began
to sense that it is the formula films
similar to Bollywood productions
which would succeed. The only hope
is that some bold directors and
producers come along and extncate
the Nepali film industry from its
present degenerate state.
Bidur Gurung
Universal Hindus
Dipak Gyawali's article on Hinduism,
("Challenged by the Future, Shackled by
the Past", May 1996) will, of course, be of
interest to many South Asian Hindus. But
when Mr Gyawali states that it is hard to
reform an archaic religion like Hinduism
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
because "there is no visible enemy in the
form of another religion without, and no
pope to attack within", he seems to have
forgotten that Hinduism is not a religion
but, rather, a way of life
The strength of Hinduism ties in its
many ways of analysing the universe and
our life in this planet and beyond. Its
universality and colourful inquiry of life is
the cornerstone of Hinduism. It would be
wrong to interpret this characteristic of
Hinduism as complacency.
Bihas Man Shrestha
Asan Tole, Kathmandu
Health and the
Dipak Gyawali's
attributing to Swami
Vivekananda the
statement "Bum the
Gita and take up
football if they really
wanted to practise
spirituality" in his
article "Challenged by
the Future, Shackled by
the Past" (May 1996) is
It is true that the
swami made some
strong statements.
When the mass ofthe population was
weak, forceful assertions were required to
awaken them, but I am not aware of
Vivekananda having ever made a call to
"bum the Gita."
After his return from America,
Vivekananda said that Brahmins are
physically weak because they do not
consume meat and that they should eat
meat and play football to make their
bodies strong. Only then can religion be
understood, he said.
It was necessary to say this at that
time because able-bodied, strong men
were required to confront the Bntish
regime. Those who are mentally strong
are always few in number while those
with physical strength are numerous.
Gautam Buddha too had not eaten
any food for 39 days, but he realised later
that such extreme austerity was taking
him nowhere and he consequently hroke
his fast by eating
nee pudding. It was he who
later suggested that people
follow the middle path.
Likewise, in the Gita, it is said:
Yuhatahara viharasya yukata
cheshtasya karmasu
Yukata swapnavovodkasya yogo hhavati
dukha ha
(Those people who
regulate their diet, habitation,
sleep and work, progress
forward in the yoga.)
Vivekananda has also said
that one cannot understand religion
on an empty stomach and likewise a
poor person cannot understand
charity. Therefore, just as to
understand charity one should
be economically well off, to
understand religion one should
have a healthy physique.
Bimala Sharma
Lalitpur, Nepal
Lure of Danger
There is something I would like to
add to your piece on the Everest
tragedy last spring (June 1996). As a
direct result of the fantastic, worldwide coverage this tragedy received,
in all likelihood, there will be many
more tourists taken up by the
magnificence and death in the
Himalaya. Ironically this has
achieved in terms of advertisement
what Nepal's financially strapped
Ministry of Tourism could never
have dreamt of. But what the
potential trekker and mountain
climber has to realise is that these
activities and expeditions are fraught with
danger if basic rules are disregarded. And,
certainly, they should be wary of expedition organisers who guarantee hundred
percent success. In expeditions to
mountains like Everest, it may be safer to
say all bets are off.
Buddha Basnyat
Medical Director
Himalayan Rescue Association
Missing Maldives
I was quite impressed by the standard of
the magazine. What I could not understand, however, is why, while you have
covered all other South Asian countries,
the Maldives is missing.
Prayag Sharma
Baneswor, Kathmandu
30 Billion Litres
I found the "Abominably Yours" of the
May issue particularly apposite, especially
the fact that 30 billion litres of extra water
will be needed if everyone in South Asia
were to use flush toilets Even in Britain,
people are beginning to observe, after last
year's water shortages which will probably
continue this year, that it is ridiculous to
use drinking water to flush toilets,
water gardens and wash cars. But, of
course, nothing will be done about
as it will not in South Asia.
Bu the way, when I moved
into my London flat many
years ago, the flushing system
marked "Thomas Crapper &
Son, Chelsea." It must be the
same Crapper mentioned in
the British High Commissioner's
etter to Sulabh.
Joseph Johnson
Leyburn, United Kingdom
Limitations of Discipline
Before 1 present a few of my observations
on Dilli R. Dahal's "The Fallout of Deviant
Anthropology" (May 1996), I would like
to make my premises clear. Lionel Caplan
and Mr Dahal are both senior and well-
respected anthropologists. (Introducing
Mr Dahal as a "social scientist" was
perhaps inappropriate, if not camouflaging.) Both have done monumental work
on eastern Nepal,
The main allegations of Mr Dahal
against Mr Caplan is that the latter
indulged in "biased anthropology", that
he did not look into all the facts, that his
study was methodologically faulty, and
that he drew a pre-ordained conclusion.
In short, he did not do justice to the
Bahuns of Ham district in eastern Nepal in
his book Land and Social Change in East
Nepal (1970).
The first two charges can be taken
together. Mr Dahal seems to have a
puristic view of how scientific disciplines
like anthropology should behave. In any
discipline, the innate activity is to build
concepts and theories. The process of
concept/theory building is essentially the
process of what is called the sifting of
data/experiences: those which fall in a
pattern are included and those which do
Readers are invited to comment,
criticise or add to information and
opinions appearing in HSA. Letters
should be brief, to the point, and may
be edited. Letters that are unsigned
and/or without addresses will not
be entertained. Include daytime telephone number, if possible,
PO Box 7251 Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel 977-1-522113, 523845, Fax 521013
email: himal®
http: //
July   1996  HIMAL South Asia
not are excluded. This process of inclusion and exclusion is inherent in any
discipline, be that anthropology or
physics. If every datum/experience is to
be taken into consideration, this scientific
exercise comes to a standstill, or is
stunted, or no conclusions can be drawn
at all because, as Mr Dahal rightly says,
the facts constitute a complex phenomenon. Therefore, if such a scientific
exercise proves to be biased, it is the
limitation of the discipline, not of its
I would like to know what methodological fallacy Mr Caplan had committed
but Mr Dahal is silent about it after having
made the claim. I would like to point out
that methods of inquiry need to be chosen
according to the context. The textual
knowledge of methodology is an asset
only to begin with; it may not lead one to
the destination sought for which impromptu modifications/changes are often
necessary. Mr Dahal, being an experienced hand at fieldwork, must certainly
know this.
Regarding pre-ordained conclusions,
Mr Dahal will surely agree that it requires
some amount of prior information about
the problem under investigation. British
academic orthodoxy being what it is, Mr
Caplan must have read a lot about Nepal
and leamt the Nepali language before
going to Ham, but could he have
gone to the field with a conclusion
which he confirmed after 13 (not 12)
Even if one were to grant that Mr
Caplan had pre-conceived conclusions, it
should not be forgotten that the
(re)production of knowledge about
Nepal, particularly about east Nepat,
was until then almost entirely in the
hands of high-caste hill Nepalis, the
people who were castigated in Land and
Social Change. On the other hand, the
accounts of British administrators were
too descriptive and generalised to indicate
anything towards what Mr Caplan finally
arrived. This also negates Mr Dahal's
imputations about pre-conceived
It may be funher pointed out that
Mahesh Chandra Regmi (in his monumental work, Land Tenure and Taxation in
Nepal, published six years after Mr Caplan
published his), agrees with Mr Caplan's
views on the kipat system, which form the
core of the latter's book. The only
dilference between these two scholars is
that while Mr Regmi uses terms like "non-
Limbus" and "high caste", Mr Caplan
bluntly uses "Bahun" thereby causing a lot
of heartburn and lmtation among those
who have not been able to shed
"Bahunism" in Nepal.
Finally, 1 would like to say that
"deviant anthropology" is more a ment
than a demerit. Mr Dahal perhaps takes it
as a negative attribute because his own
doctoral thesis entitled Poverty or Plenty:
Innovative Responses to Population Pressure
in an Eastern Nepalese Hill Community
(1983) could not prove to be "deviant".
His book only confirmed what the Aryan
discourse on Nepal says about the
backwardness of the Mongoloid hill
Nepalis—that they have become backward because of their own cultural vices
like alcoholism and non-vegetarianism.
This is what the dominant discourse says
and Mr Dahal has only supported it with
his data.
Tanka B. Suhba
Department of Anthropology
North-Eastem Hill University
Shillong, India
Fashionable Homogenising
Dilli R. Dahal may be right in taking
Lionel Caplan to task for homogenising
"the Brahmins" and oversimplifying the
ethnic relations in the region he studied.
But Mr Dahal is guilty of precisely the
same error in homogenising "Western
anthropologists", who surely vary as
much in the degree to which they wear
"cultural blinders" and are "career
driven" as Brahmins or any other
group vary in their degrees of greed
or honesty.
It is also simply not the case, as
pointed out by Mr Dahal, that questions
of the "ethics of anthropological practice"
are "rarely raised". It is fashionable these
days to trash anthropology, yet this
field—more than virtually any other—
spends a good deal ol time
reflecting on questions oi ethics in
research, although we may not
always get it right.
Instead of placing blame on either
some undifferentiated Brahmins or some
undifferentiated anthropologists, we
would all do better to examine the
structural and historical conditions
under which any pnvileged group or
individual is able to wind up with a
disproportionate share of the wealth of
the nation.
Sherry B. Ortner
Professor of Anthropology
University of California,
Surpassing the Limits of Suggestion
South Asian countnes today are gradually
coming closer to each other day by day
through multifanous programmes. From
this angle of vision, the publication
of a journal which incorporates
information on the different fields of
South Asian activity is a very timely
But 1 have a minor suggestion to
make. The cover picture of the June issue
is perhaps not befitting the spirit of this
publication. Keeping in view the name of
the journal, a very charming picture ofthe
Himalaya or of Mount Everest or a
prominent natural scene may find place
on the cover which, to my estimation, will
make ihe journal much more attractive
and consuming.
I do not know if I have surpassed the
limit of going to the extent of giving this
type ol suggestion, but as a first reader of
your journal, 1 considered it my duty to
point out to you what I thought better. If
it is considered as an excess exercise, I
may kindly be excused.
Abdul Quayyum Thakur
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Planning, Dhaka
YOU CAN   £|-fH£TrU        _
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
Within India, the image ofthe United Front government in New Delhi might have begun to tarnish alter
an all-too-brief honeymoon with the media. But, were
a poll to be conducted in the surrounding countries,
Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's coalition would
emerge with Hying colours.
No sooner had Mr Deve Gowda assumed office in
June, than there was a message ol congratulations
from across the border in Pakistan. Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto offered to resume high-level bilateral
talks that had broken otf acrimoniously in early 1994,
(Earlier, when the Bharatiya Janata Party held power
in New Delhi for all ol two weeks, there had been
deafening silence from Islamabad.)
Within 24 hours, the Indian side responded
positively to the overture and despite some minor
hiccups, the talks are very much on the anvil. Significantly, the two countries have also decided to include
Kashmir in the talks.
Pakistan has also accorded India the Most
Favoured Nation status and allowed the import of key
Indian goods that had hitherto been banned. Tbis
follows Islamabad's initialling of the South Asian
Preferential Trade Agreement. For its part, India had
already allowed Pakistan access to its more than 900
million-strong market
It is hoped that escalating trade will ultimately
help thaw the fngid bilateral ties between the two big
players of South Asia. The new government in New
Delhi, bound neither to the supra-nationalist rhetoric
of the predecessor Bharatiya Janata Party government, nor the legacies which are the Congress Party's
burden, is ideally situated to pusb through initiatives
on the diplomatic front.
Inder Kumar Gujral, the new External Alfairs
Minister, has said that relations with Pakistan would
follow the model of relations with China where talks
progress despite contentious issues "Ultimately when
issues like trade and travel improve we can even sort
out the pertinent issues in a more tranquil atmosphere. The suspicions are less and the intentions are
not doubted," he told a fortnightly news magazine.
Just as, or because, tbe Deve Gowda government
represents regional interests within India (see
Commentary, June 1996), it will perhaps be better
able appreciate the need for a regional outlook in
South Asia. Mr Gujral has said that his foreign policy
priority will be to enhance regional cooperation Even
as a statement of intent, this represents a sea change
in New Delhi's sensitivity towards a need for regionalism. As the biggest power by far in South Asia, India
has always been the most reluctant regional partner,
and it comes more naturally to the smaller neighbour
to speak of cooperation.
Withsurpnsmgforthnghtness, Mr Gujral said,"I
am willing to give more than I take. The central shift
from my predecessors will be that 1 am not an
advocate of quid pro quo I believe that larger nations
must have larger hearts also ft Brave and unprecedented words these, but Mr Gujral should he cautioned that hold initiatives must be taken right at the
beginning, with enough groundwork to allow the
momentum to carry it along. Any delay will mean that
the room for manoeuvre in key foreign policy issues
will rapidly hecome narrow.
India is, no doubt, in the big league globally
when it comes to size of economy, geographical mass
and military prowess. This reality should dictate
magnanimity and willingness to compromise and
"give more than it receives", which is also Mr Gujral's
altitude. His emphasis on the importance of the
region and the need to underplay India's size and
clout reflects an appreciation of a changed world
situation where empty sabre rattling over decades has
left South Asia where it began while the rest of the
world has prospered. Economic compulsions dictate
the need for building strong regional trade links so
that South Asia emerges as a viable trading bloc.
The prohlem with centralisation ol power in
New Delhi is that the Foreign Office takes the macro
and Delhi-centric view while deciding what is good
for the country. Thus, a number of initiatives that
could benefit different parts of the nation are either
neglected or ignored. It is now time for New Delhi to
appreciate the advantage that could be reaped by
individual Indian states as a result of a South Asian
regional warming Thus, a liberal and open attitude
towards cross-border trade and interaction could
lead to promoting economic activity involving, say,
Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal. For decades,
the interests of the North Eastern states of India have
been held hostage due to the inability of India and
Bangladesh to agree on accessing Chittagong
port. Dhaka has also been unable to obtain New
Delhi's permission to sell goods directly to the Nortb
East. Bangladesh now hopes this will be granted
under SAPTA
Mr Gujral has said that because the Indian
economy is the largest in the region, he is willing to go
in for asymmetrical relationships and grant concessions. This should be sweet music for Bangladeshi
ears, for Dhaka has also been asking for a reduction of
tariffs on Bangladeshi goods entering the Indian
market to improve the trade balance that is currently
overwhelmingly in India's favour
Given the volume of the Indian economy, tbe
positive fallout Irom an opening ol trade and commerce across South Asian boundaries may not at first
seem sizeable. However, the amount of trade will
rapidly grow to be big enough that even the largest
players in India will not be able to ignore it Already,
Bangladesh provides a multi-million dollar market
for Indian goods and services. One senior Indian
journalist in a Dhaka seminar recently made light of
the value of such trade, but his businessmen compatriots will doubtless disagree.
July 1996  HIMAL South Asia
Thus, the positive fallout for all countries of
South Asia from a policy of regional opening up is
incredibly large. The activation of the principle of
comparative advantage, already being used by Bhutan
to sell premium fruit products to Bangladesh, will
lead to a more efficient economy in South Asia as a
When trade flows and money begins to be made
or saved, tension level will start dropping. With a
liberal-minded baggage-less government in place in
New Delhi, and with Islamabad making overtures, it
seems that the region as a whole is tantalisingly close
to a breakthough of great magnitude.
"Love Thy Neighbour" seems to be the credo of
the new Indian government, if it lasts out its term, or
stays long enough to make a difference, it could mark
a new chapter in South Asian relations. &
The successful conclusion of elections in Bangladesh
on 12 June can-be credited largely to a constitutional
innovation—the provision included by the 13th constitutional amendment earlier this year which requires all general elections henceforth to be conducted under a caretaker government. Ironically, that
amendment itself was adopted by a Parliament which
had little or no legitimacy, comprised as it was
entirely of members of Begum Khaleda Zia's
Bangladesh Nationalist Parly that had been elected in
the 15 February polls boycotted by all other parties.
Whatever the pedigree of the amendment, the
idea was put to the test on 12 June and it passed with
full marks. Thus, the caretaker-govemment-during-
elections concept becomes something that
neighbouring countnes too might study for its
The main reason the caretaker government
worked was that the Chief Advisor and other Advisors
(as they are called) were competent individuals, former
justices, bureaucrats and technocrats with unimpeachable references. As Chief Advisor (really the
Pnme Minister), former Chief Justice Mohammad
Habibur Rahman was scrupulously fair in running
the government.
justice Rahman's most important task, the raison
d'etre of the 13 th amendment, was to ensure free and
fair elections, and so he took extra special care in
selecting the Election Commission team, headed by
former bureaucrat Md Abu Hena. And because ofthe
transparent neutrality of the "non-party" caretaker
government, both the major political parties found it
difficult to cry foul.
Will the caretaker government system work for
any of the other regional countries? It is difficult to
say. It has worked in Bangladesh this once, and might
again, but the fortuitous circumstances that throw up
individuals who are both competent and neutral
might not always come together. Indeed, even in
Bangladesh, the expectation is that constitutionally
mandated caretakers are a temporary measure and
that the country should ultimately go back to the tried
and tested system where the government in power
also runs the elections.
The alternative, of course, is to have a consensual
and depoliticised process for choosing the election
commissioners. However, this is easier said than
done, for even with the strongest of guarantees, the
election commission cannot be immune from the
pressures of a government that wants to have its way.
Hence, in the extreme situation that Bangladesh was
faced with a few months back, the experiment was in
ensuring the neutrality of the very government that
appoints the election commission.
The Bangladesh experiment with a custodian
government, thus, begins to look more attractive for
those countries where 1) party polarisation is so
extreme that there is no chance that the losing party
will willingly sit in opposition, and 2) where neutrality of the election commission—or the ability of the
commission to enforce its neutrality—is in serious
The Thirteenth Amendment was the end result
of two years of acrimony between Bangladesh's two
powerful parties, the Awami League and the
Bangladesh Nationalist Party. As a senior member of
the Awami League told the press, the caretaker concept was intended not only for transferring power,
but for strengthening the democratic process as a
whole. "With a view to developing a democratic
culture, which was never practised in the country, we
want to continue this process for several terms more,"
he said.
Indeed, it would seem wise to maintain the
present innovation for some time to come. But the fact
remains that the caretaker system brings a hiatus,
albeit for a few weeks, in the normal running of
Job well done:
Chief Adviser Rahman
HIMAL South Asia July 1996
government, of which holding elections is but one
activity. This break in continuity cannot be dismissed
lightly. Ultimately^ as more sober politics begins to be
practised,, there has to be a return to the handed-
down system of an elected party running a country till
it is ready for the handover to whoever wins next.
And so, Bangladesh, too, would be well advised
to move towards developing a political culture which
does away with the very need to have a caretaker. In
the meantime, the new Awami League government of
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed must immediately tackle the anomaly that exists in the Thirteenth
Amendment—the provision which entrusts the Chief
Advisor the task of conducting elections and the
routine functions of government, while the control of
the armed forces rests entirely with the President.
This incongruous provision could be taken advantage of by a President bent on mischief. For, under the
amendment, the President remains a party-appointed
constitutional head of a non-party caretaker government, /ft
Pakistan has the dubious distinction of being the
world's second-most corrupt nation, after Nigeria,
according to the findings of the Berlin-based nongovernmental organisation Transparency International (TI), TI's findings are based on a survey of
business executives of multinationals in 54 countries
dealing with politicians and bureaucrats "who enrich
themselves in transactions with companies".
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto promptly dismissed the survey as rubbish, but no one in Pakistan
appeared particularly surprised at its findings. There
seems to be a general consensus that although corruption exists everywhere in varying degrees, in Pakistan
it is particularly widespread, Bhutto's disclaimers
notwithstanding. The TI report may have dealt a blow
ien the common
man sees powerful ministers
spending lakhs of rupees,
who can blame him for
wanting a piece of the pie?
to Pakistan's image abroad, and the situation certainly
needs to be tackled internally and immediately.
Hard on the heels ofthe TI report came the news
item in the London-based The Sunday Express, which
reported on a secret purchase of a 355-acre mansion
at a cost of 2.5 million pounds in Surrey, England, by
the prime minister and her spouse, Asif Ali Zardari.
The government's denials and threats to sue the
Sunday Express were weak, to say the least, particularly since the paper's management stood by its story
and expressed readiness to face legal charges.
A gleeful opposition capitalised fully on
'Surreygate' as the affair has been dubbed, and brought
a reference against Bhutto and Zardari, seeking their
disqualification as National Assembly members on
charges of concealing the purchase and not making
known their source of income for it. This is the first
time that such a scandal has hit the powers-that-be in
Pakistan. Previous rumours of commissions, kickbacks, and misappropriation of public funds for
private use have rarely been proved.
To be fair to politicians (and bureaucrats), at least
some of these rumours that do the rounds may be
exaggerated, or even unfounded. But the very fact
that general perception takes them to be true is
something which needs to be dealt with. The way to
do so is not through a "corruption commission" as
Opposition Leader Nawaz Sharif has demanded. That
in any case is seen by most observers as the political
move it basically is—an attempt to embarrass Ms
Bhutto's government further, and hardly a solution.
Tackling the problem of corruption, or even of
perceptions of corruption, is not to deny that it exists,
but to tackle it by offering accountability and openness in the system. So far, newspaper investigations
into embezzlements and other corruption activities
have generally come to naught—no arrests, no convictions, no resignations—even when backed with
documents and other proof.
Accountability must begin at the apex, with
those in power initiating the process of laying themselves open to scrutiny. There must be laws that allow
questioning and freedom of information, as frequently
demanded by journalists and non-governmental
organisations. And these laws must be enforced. If a
customs officer suspended while under investigation
for charges of corruption can be reinstated with a
stroke of the pen by the country's top government
functionaries on the request of a leading personality,
how can there be any question of accountability?
The 'rot' starts at the 'top' and finds its way to the
'bottom'. When the common man sees powerful
ministers spending lakhs of rupees on their children's
weddings, or misappropriating public property for
private use, or importing luxury cars duty free (with
approval from the assemblies), who can blame him
for wanting a piece of the pie? And when this is
supplemented by the ever-increasing cost of living,
and the unrealistic salaries paid to many government
functionaries and low-ranking civil servants, many
find it even easier to justify 'bending the rules' a little.
So you have low-and middle-class families paying a little extra to the metre-reader so that their
electricity bill is manageable; an autorickshaw-walla
refusing to run his vehicle on the metre and charging
three times the official rate per kilometre; a traffic
policeman looking the other way in the case of a
July 1996 HIMAL South Asia
red-light breaker or a polluting vehicle, in return for
a little something for 'chai-pam'.
The little people are the ones who sometimes get
caught The big fish, those who take kickbacks and
commissions worth millions of rupees go scot-free,
and are seen to go scot-free. Parliamentarians and
ministers use their powers to increase their own perks
and privileges, like importing duty-free luxury cars,
at one third the cost of the local market and then
selling them for lakhs of profit in the market
The situation in Pakistan may seem hopeless, but
there exists widespread disillusionment which is fertile ground for a pathbreakmg judge or courageous
politician to take the cue. In the meantime, ll the
South Asian chapters of Transparency International
are serious about tackling corruption, they would do
well to look at realistic innovations and advances
within South Asia rather than fawn over idealised
corruptionless societies of the West.
If it is true that the most corrupt are those at the
top, then in India at least, an awakened judiciary is
actively directing affairs against arrogant leaders who
have cheated the public without a second thought.
The pursuit of high-profile cases against the mighty of
the land is a process that hopefully will transfer by
osmosis to the neighbouring countries, including
Pakistan And speaking of underpaid civil servants
who take to corruption, Bhutan shows the way
with its tiny but well-paid bureaucracy which, at the
very least, we are told, does not bother with petty
June was "hang the environmentalist" month in Nepal,
with the chorus led by Water Resources Minister
Pashupati SjB Rana, followed by an assortment of
establishmentanan politicos and bureaucrats, and
journalists who do not read. The focus of their ire was
activists and intellectuals who were allegedly obstructing the construction of the Kali Gandaki A
Kali Gandaki A is a relatively modest hut important power project in central Nepal which needs to be
built to meet the country's growing energy needs.
Interestingly, none ofthe activists was saying that Kali
Gandaki A should not be built. Instead, what they
were going on about was the lack of transparency in
decision-making related to the project, and asking
why its estimated cost had suddenly escalated in
recent years.
Why should there be so much aggravation when
questions are raised about the high cost? Rather than
answer the question, the tack has been for politicians,
bureaucrats and newsmen to lambast "environmentalists" lor being anti-dam, anti-development and
anti-national. They hlame the "environmentalists" for
having "lost" Arun III for Nepal, and are fearful that
the same thing will happen with Kali Gandaki A.
"Environmentalism" is a dirty word, according to
this crowd, and there is no convincing them that it
was not "environmental" arguments that killed Arun
111, the project which was cancelled by the World
Bank last year. Instead, it was the challenge by well-
informed specialists who put forward cogent arguments on the need for in-country capability-building
and the economic risks of an inappropriate project.
Those who successfully opposed, and whom the
World Bank heard before making its decision to back
out, were not eco-fundamentalist dam-haters. The
arguments against Arun 111, however, do not apply in
the case of Kali Gandaki A.
While the World Bank might have learnt its
lesson from Arun III, the Nepali establishment certainly hasn't: witness the continuous atavistic baying
all of the month of June against "environmentalists"
when a) the activists have not called for cancellation
of Kali Gandaki A, and b) when these activists have
not uttered a word about the environmental unsuit-
ability of Kali Gandaki.
A social scientist, some day, will make an enquiry
into the current state of mental stasis in the Nepali
government. He/she will learn that the country has
been led up the garden path hy powerful and arrogant
politicians supported by weak bureaucrats and
advised by the unlettered. They will use any argument as long as it is in their interest, which is to
tender, tender, tender. Thus, they need not even
understand all that the term "environmentalist" means
to use it over and over as the bogeyman to lullil their
own ends.
While the government employs the services of
clowns and comedians to counter the "environmentalists", it-does not answer the one questions that the
activists have: why has the cost of Kali Gandaki A
skyrocketed? In November 199.3, a panel ol experts
from the Asian Development Bank stated that the base
cost of Kali Gandaki would he USD 280 million. The
project estimate now, in mid-1996, is USD 450
million after so-called "design simplifications". The
fear of cost-padding on the one hand and unnecessary
donor conditionalities on the other are genuine, and
the government is asked to respond.
As Minister Rana goes about calling activists
names, he gets carried away. All who oppose dams are
part of a conspiracy of Western powers who do not
want progress in the South, he says (sec sidebar).
These are arguments that are passe by a decade at
least, and the minister does serious discredit to Nepalis
when he implies that they are incapable ol questioning projects on their own and that they are tools ofthe
"foreign hand".
The campaign against "environmentalists", unfortunately, represents the state of Nepali politics
today, directed as it is by the arrogance of power
unrestrained by ideological underpinnings, aninabil-
ity to envision development, and a lack ol self-
confidence. It is so much simpler to label all those
who disagree with you as anti-development and
anti-national. i.*
These purveyors of
the pastorat dream
have a hidden neoco-
lonialist agenda.
Having achieved the
highest levels of
development in the
Wrest they want to
freeze underdeveloped countries in
pastoral poverty. The
Wrest does not need
any more large dams,
has built enough.
Europe exploited the
world's environment
to achieve its development. Now they want
to prevent us from
exploiting the natural
resources in our own
backyard, with even
the best measures of
mitigation. So that we
are condemned to
perpetual underdevelopment. So that the
difference between
the advanced nations
and backwards ones
can be
institutionalised. Let
us oppose their
neocolonialist agenda
disguised as environmental idealism.
— Nepal's Minister of
Water Resources,
Pashupati SJB Rana
speaking at a workshop
on "Managing the
Environmental Impact of
Water Resources
Development" in
late June.
HIMAL South Asia  July 1996
A Post-Nationalist
South Asia
The South Asian Nation needs to
re-invent itself before it is torn apart
by internecine conflicts.
by Imtiaz Ahmed
In South Asia, 'nation', 'nationalism' and 'nationhood'
are all products of colonial history. There is no evidence oi such concepts or ideas having any relevance
to South Asia's history prior to the arrival ol the
Indeed, the very fact thai the Europeans (first the
Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, the French and the
British) arrived in South Asia as 'nations' contributed to
ihe diffusion of such ideas propagating a 'governing
principle' for reproducing and replacing colonialism—
the former by way ol organising the power of the colonialists
lor the bene.f it ofthe European latherlandand the latter by
way nl uniting the indigenous population under the
leadership ol the local dominant forces.
Nationalism in South Asia soon became one of
the major tactics for organising the majority of the
people lor reproducing state power. But paradoxically,
due to its alien-ness and the mechanical way it was
applied, it also became a source of tension and unrest for
pluralist South Asia.
Nationalism is first and foremost a modem construction with precise political ends. An obvious question to
ask is, what is modernity? What does it signify intellectually and politically? Modernity, in essence, is the wisdom
July   1996  HIMAL South Asia
ofthe West. Having its roots in the European Enlightenment, modernity nurtures a linear vision of progress,
including the idea that the West occupies a central
position in the history of the world
Accordingly, 'progress' is measured by the extent to
which non-Western, non-modem societies have succeeded in replicating the experience ol the modern 'Western1 state politically, economically, technologically as
well as militarily
In South Asia modernity is a condition ol colonial
history. This tact itself separates South Asia's experience
with modernity from the one that has been nurtured by
the West, But there is more to it. In the nearly 200 years
of Bntish rule, the latter succeeded in transforming
the societies of colonial South Asia to such an extent that
a certain kind ol stigma, otherwise referred to as the
colonial legacy, continues to haunt the people ol South
Asia and there seems to be no respite from it in the
immediate future,
This has come ahout not merely as a result ol the
physical presence ol the British, although it was a necessary condition, but more importantly as a result of the
organisation of 'colonialism proper' (a synonym for intellectual dependency of the South Asians on the West) by
the British.
Such replication of modernity, however, had two
critical impacts. On the one hand, it created a milieu
where a South Asian mind could survive without being
imaginative, lor 'imagination' rested with the 'modern
West' and South Asia needed only to borrow Irom it.
On the other hand, contempt for indigenous things
became a national elitist trait as more and more development' ofthe nation stale was modelled in the image ol the
modern 'Western' state Put differently, modern South
Asia was placed in a pitiful situation; it was made to
reproduce itself not only unimaginatively hut also with
things that were alien to it.
This intrusion of modernity and the organisation of
'colonialism proper1 has brought into South Asia a precise
model of nation state-building, different from both the
latter's pre-modern experiences and the modern 'Western' state. 'Model,' however, is understood here not in the
sense of a miniature or a device representing the appearance of things but rather as a device organising and
reproducing the tactics and strategies best suited to the
task of nation state-building.
Let me explain this by reflecting on three general
areas of nation state-building, namely, 'politics,' 'economics' and 'military,' which, in the light of then colonial
and post-colonial experiences, are no longer in their
puenle forms but represent specific 'models' of nationhood, development and security.
Model of Nationhood
In all the SouthAsian states, nation-building ;s organised
and measured in terms of the 'will of the majority,' the
latter defined, however, by the dominant social forces
That is, nation states have tended to reproduce hegemony
and the power ofthe ruling class by fulfilling the demands
and aspirations of the majority people, who are often
reconstructed by categories as diverse as 'ethnic,' 'religious,' 'race,' 'language,' or even a combination of some or
all of them.
If this has resulted in the organisation and consolida-
tion of a 'majority.' it has also created alienation of
minority communities The fragmentation of people into
'majority' and 'minority' communities has critical consequences both at home and regionally. Let me explain
this further.
Under the subtle guidance ofthe hegemonic forces,
Hinduism in India is increasingly being transformed from
a multi-faceted religious system into a single unifying
conformist religion, almost in the likes of the
Judeo-Ghnstian-Islamic tradition. Such a transformation, however, obliterates the social reproduction of the
caste systern,
The 'outcaste' Dalits, who are often found in a disadvantageous situation vis-a-vis the caste-conscious Hindus, have already reacted to this modernist trend. But
aside from this, there also exist inter-caste conflicts,
particularly between Brahmms and the so-called 'backward castes'.
In a situation as complex and chaotic as this, the only
way to ensure the modernist transformation of Hinduism
and the organisation of a 'Hindu majority' is to play the
communal card, mostly in the form of Muslim or Sikh or,
as it is increasingly found, non-Hindu bashing. In this
effort, all political parties, either for making the majority
community the target ol their electoral campaign or for
remaining dependent on it for recruiting members, are
involved And that includes the Communists as well!
The power of the 'Hindu majority' in India is felt at
several levels, from communal riots to the demolition oi
Babri Masjid at the hands of fanatics to the state-sponsored
militarisation of Kashmiri society. Each of these levels,
either singularly or collectively, tend to reproduce hegemony and ihe power of the majority community.
Such levels of violent conflicts are less the outcome
of a state-sponsored conspi racy than the result of the very
structure ihat has been organised to reproduce hegemony. Bui in this context, the reproduction ol hegemony
in India, in so far as it breeds fear and leads (lor instance)
to the underdevelopment of the minority Muslim community, creates conditions of mistrust and misgivings
within the majority Muslim communities across the border, namely in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The reverse is equally true. That is, in Pakistan and
Bangladesh, the consolidation of the 'Muslim majority1
leads to the alienation of their respective minorities, often
contributing to the deepening of animosity between them
and India
The nationalist consciousness in Sn Lanka also began
to be constructed in a way, which, while lavouring the
'Buddhist- Sinhala majority', put a burden on the latter to
'govern' and 'lead' the rest ol the society, almost in the
fashion of Kipling's "White Man's Burden". The alienation
of the non-Buddhist-Smhala, particularly that of the
'Hindu-Tamil minority1, remained rooted in the nationalist discourse that unfolded in the island. The success of
the Buddhist-Smhala identity only undermined the interests of the Hindu-Tamils lo the extent that between 1956
and 1970 there was a drop from 30 to 5 per cent in the
proportion of Tamils in the Ceylon Administrative Service, from 50 to 5 in the clerical service, 60 to 10 in the
professions (engineers, doctors, lecturers), 40 to 1 in the
armed lorces and 40 to 5 in the labour forces.
in essence,
is the
wisdom of
the West
and it
nurtures a
vision of
progress in
which the
occupies a
position in
the history
of the
HIMAL South Asia   July   1996
tends to
make the
which has
in the
It does not take much imagination to contemplate
how the Hindu-Tamils would react. Indeed, the Tamil
Tigers' arose out of a nationalist discourse well-disposed
towards the 'Buddhist-Sinhala majority', one which has
been organised, nurtured and meticulously lollowed in
post-independence Sri Lanka. Not long after such developments, the (Sn Lankan) Hindu-Tamils impressed their
plight upon the 'Hindu majority' of India, a factor that
soon contributed to the state oi misgiving and suspicion
between India and Sri Lanka
The case is no different for other nation states of
South Asia. Today, 'Muslim Pakistan,' 'Hindu India,'
'Buddhist Sri Lanka,1 'Muslim Bangladesh,' 'Hindu Nepal,1
all suggest the simultaneous organisation of the 'majority
community' and the 'nation state,1 albeit in each case in
the manner defined by the dominant social lorces
Interestingly, both 'regimented' and 'democratic' regimes play identical roles in this regard, both catering to
the hopes and aspirations ofthe majority community, in
the case of the former, such catering is more often
deliberate and crude compared to democratic regimes
In fact, in democratic regimes, the organisation of
majoritarianism is more related to electoral politics, where
parties are forced to woo the majority section of the
people to win elections. In a socially fragmented society,
often the party or candidate would settle for the easiest
way—that is, heat up communal or religious feelings to
organise the nation and the nationalities.
In this context, Nepal's case is an interesting one,
where the transition to democracy is equally matched by
a transition from a predominantly 'Hindu Kingdom1 to a
(democratic) state which is increasingly championing
conformist or syndicated Hinduism to reconstruct the
majority community.
Model of Development
But lest one understands the activities taking place in the
political domain as something bordering on a series ol
conspiracies under the leadership ol the dominant forces,
it is important to refer to the 'developmentahty' of the
state, i.e., a mentality where 'development' is primarily
geared towards the needs and aspirations of the 'majority'
of the people.
The cntical thing to reflect upon is the task of making
the bourgeois 'national ' While lots of emphasis has been
given to the bourgeois side ol the term 'national bourgeoisie,' little attention has been given to the other half. An
example or two will make this clear.
It is common to say that in India the economy is
developing under the leadership of the 'national bourgeoisie,' while in Nepal or Bangladesh it is developing
under the leadership of the 'rising national bourgeoisie,1
the latter having strong imprints of compradonsm and
pettiness. But how did the members of the bourgeoisie
come into being? What sort of schooling did they have7
What constructed their minds7 From where do I hey get
their fresh recruits7
Indeed, the organisation ofthe national bourgeoisie
requires certain specific tactics, which, at times, include
elements as diverse as intellectual intervention and developmental protectionism
Education, or more precisely, national education, is
vitally important. In all South Asian nation states educa
tion is delivered in a way which, while reproducing the
model of development suited to the hegemonic forces,
tends to make the school-goers and, later on, the learned
few nationalist'. With this is an implied bias towards the
majority community which has critical implications in
the maintenance of mter-state animosity.
Moreover, the governments of all South Asian nation
states are involved not merely in the development of the
public school system but also in organising the content of
knowledge. Such governmentalisation of knowledge,
however, not only limits competition and creativity,
which otherwise could be found in autonomous and
independent schooling, but also caters to the populism of
the majority community bent on organising the
developmentahty ol the state.
This situation undermines the quality of education
on the one hand, and invites dissent from the minority
communities on the other. It creates conditions ior civil
and mter-state conflicts (between majority and minority
communities, and between the different nation states of
the region), and retards the generation of innovative ideas
towards resolving such conflicts.
It is not difficult to see the intellectual parameters in
which the public at large and the national bourgeoisie in
particular are brought up in South Asia. Once the
developmentahty of the state takes shape, it quickly
begins to influence the entire range of activities, including
the much-respected phenomenon of developmental protectionism.
In the case of the Farakka Barrage and Kaptai Dams,
for example, the citizens of both India and Bangladesh,
when tutored about the merits of their respective dams,
find themselves being fed with strong scientific and
technological reasoning, including the reasoning of
progress and modern development. But such reasoning
ends at their respective borders, for both governments
take a moral position, and this time thoroughly devoid of
any scientific and technological reasoning, when referring to the consequences brought about by the dam
ofthe other
Bangladeshis, forced to live with an alarmingly
low level of water m the rivers during winter seasons, are
time and again reminded of the ill-effects of Farakka,
while the Indians, forced to share the burden of settling
more than 50,000 Chakma refugees in Arunachal Pradesh,
blame Kaptai for the refugee Dow. Neither, however,
dares blame the development of dams within their
own borders!
Indeed, we have been brought up in a way to believe
that unless our 'national interest', 'national waterways',
'national market', 'national development1, etc, are protected by the states, not only will there be no development
of the country but the leadership (or more precisely, the
bourgeoisie), in whom the onerous task of development
has been entrusted, will also cease to be national. In the
process of glonfying the'nation', we seem to have tnvialised
the peojile both within and outside our borders!
Model of Security
There is an intrinsic relationship between the development of the modern state and the development of modem
security forces. This is true not only witb respect to the
security lorces as an institution but, importantly, writh
July   1996  HIMAL South Asia
regard to the question of organising and defining the
security problems of the country
In fact, not only do the security forces, in the hack-
drop of the organisation of the nation state, hecome
'manned' hy the members of the majority community
(much ahove their percentage in the country's population) but, interestingly, the majonty community itsell
becomes the 'purpose' for the organisation and development of the security forces.
Consequently, national security becomes a thing of
the majority, predisposed towards the task of organising
and reproducing the latter's hegemony In the case of
South Asian nation states, this has ted to the construction
ofhostile structures only to reproduce inter-state animosity between the countries.
In the backdrop oi the communalisation of the
modern state, the development of the Indian security
forces is viewed in Bangladesh in communal temis. A
sizeable section ofthe Bangladeshi intelligentsia views the
might ofthe Indian military, including the i974 nuclear
explosion at Pokharan, as something representing the
might of the majority Hindu community.
It is from this perspective that one must understand
that behind Bangladesh's endorsement of Pakistan's South
Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and Nepal's now-
defunct Peace Zone Proposal lies its tacit approval for a
'balance ol nuclear terror1 in South Asia, one which has
been made possible by nothing other than the alleged
development of Pakistan's 'Islamic bomb'.
Given the balance (or rather the imbalance) of forces
between India and Bangladesh, the latter's Inclophobia is
understandable. What is less understandable is India's
concern with the organisation of Bangladesh's national
security; unless, of course, it is viewed from a majoritarian
perspective. True to its modernity. Bangladesh's security
forces, like those of India, have become a thing of the
majority. This is best reflected, albeit to different degrees,
in the alienation of the minority communities, both
Hindus and the hill people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
While the insurgency in the CUT, as one Indian
scholar maintains, "is being actively supported hy New
Delhi, which sees it as an opportunity to control its
impoverished neighbour," it is less important, outside the
State of Tripura, in reproducing hegemony Indeed, far
more important in this task is the manner in which the
dismal condition of the Hindu minority in modern
Bangladesh is interpreted and organized in 'Hindu majority' India, It is no surprise, therefore, that the issue ol
migration from Bangladesh gets top priority in India,
including (alas, amongst many serious litterateurs and
their works) Taslima Nasreen and her Lajja.
One important fact that needs to be stressed is that
both Hindus and Muslims, albeit more 'poor Muslims',
have migrated from Bangladesh to India to overcome
economic and environmental hazards. We need not go
into the relationship between the development of such
hazards and the developmentahty ofthe state, which is
not very difficult to discern. What is interesting is that the
activities surrounding migration have become more of a
secunty issue, with security forces on both sides of the
border playing a determining role It is otherwise not
difficult to see that India's 'push hack1 policy or, inversely,
Bangladesh's jiush in' prohlem, while strengthening the
secunty forces, help reproduce hegemony and the power
ofthe majority communities in both India and Bangladesh.
In the meantime, the people suffer...
What is to be done?
The answer begs both theoretical and practical interventions. If the organisation of the nation state itsell is the
source of alienation and suffering, it is futile to keep
strengthening the nation state to try to contain such
alienation and suffering.
In fact, what is required is not only a critical appreciation of the state of things but more importantly, the
imagination and the will to 'rethink' and transform the
state of things It is very difficult to outline a precise plan,
particularly relating to the practical side of the 'rethink-
In the
process of
the nation,
we seem to
the people
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
If the
nation state
itself is the
source of
suffering, it
is futile to
the nation
mg' and the transformation thai is to be accepted from it
Let us look at  ]ust ihree areas where innovative
intervention is required to transform the current state
of things:
1. Reinventing Security. The tnadic representation of
security forces (i.e., army, navy and airlorce, with the
nuclear option for some) has outlived its utility even from
a purely strategic perspective (unless, ol course, one
assumes that we are still living in the age of territorial
expansion and the colonisation ol people). In lact, in the
case of Bangladesh and Sn Lanka, the air force can safely
be dismantled and the regular army replaced by (th ree- year
service) voluntary armed forces
As for India and Pakistan, given their current state of
arms buildup, a more realistic approach would be to
decentralise the national army and provide avenues tor
non-offensive defence to take over. But this would require
a new mode of thinking in defence strategy, something
that is now a taboo to military personnel and 'well-wishers'
of the modern armies ol South Asia.
The urgency for reinventing security, however, lies
elsewhere, If anything is going to bring about reinvention,
it is paradoxically the increased use ol security forces in
civil conlficts in South Asia. "This is because the more
security forces become essential to the lask of conflict
resolution, the more the art of government becomes
paralysed, leading to lurther militarisation.
Indeed, the art of government, il it is to remain civil
and innovative, requires freedom It cannot spread and
develop in an environment ol regimentation 11 is, therefore, no surprise that in the midst of an increased use ol
the security lorces, the governments ol all South Asian
states time and again fail to nurture a lasting solution to
their respective civil conflicts.
II civil unrest is to be contained, the much-abused
notion of 'national security' needs to be replaced with a
more sober and practical notion ol societal security. With
the organisation of the latter, much of the current thinking on security, including the arsenals that it had helped
to reproduce, will simply become redundant.
2. Reinventing Development. In light ol the consequences of (mal)development, it is quite clear that the
politically-constructed modern inajotitanan slate has lost
its will to support and nurture the material aspirations not
only of the minority communities, but also oi a sizeable
section of the majority community. In this context, it is
high time for the public and the politicians alike to
rethink development. Education is one area to Stan with
The modernist mind has become uncooperative and
confliclual, when what we need is an education thai can
produce 'cooperative minds' in large numbers. Set to
reproduce the power of nations and nationalities, modern
education tends to reproduce violence and conflicts, even
considers them acceptable, so long as they are directed
against alien cultures, nations or countnes. Much of the
problem, apart from illiteracy, lies with the kind of
education that we have been providing. The children of
South Asia are literally brought up as 'nationalists,' tutored to fall in love only with the nation that they have
been born in. Making people literate is, ol course, the
first step. But literacy alone will not guarantee the produc
tion of 'cooperative minds'. Modem but fragmented Sri
Lanka, with a high literacy rate, is a good example. What
we need is a thorough and an innovative remaking of our
education, at both national and regional levels.
Nationally, the organisation and reproduction ol the
'national curriculum' must be abandoned and in us place
a Curriculum of the people must be designed to perform
the newer task ol cooperation At the regional level, there
must be cooperation among issue-oriented faculties
throughout the region to create 'South Asian1 minds,
through something like a "South Asian University". II
such a university, along with the changes in the curriculum nationally, could be introduced and sustained, it
would go a long way in Ireemg our minds Irom the
conflict-prone nationalist and coinmunahsl. discourses.
Development will then cease to he 'national' and 'communal.' instead it would be constructed on newer and
friendly grounds, with people as its sole concern Its
students would look into the business of organising
cooperation in diverse fields, not Irom ihe standpoint of
nations and slates but from the standpoint of people.
3. Reinventing the State. The urge to identify ourselves
in national terms, including the practices ol modern
majoritarianism, has created havoc Given our pluralism,
one which is far cliflerenl Irom the Western experience,
(he organisation ol such national states has led to the
alienation and suppression o! minority communities.
The) have become* pariahs in their oven states. I his has to
be rectified, noi merely lor sake: ol idealism, but lor the
interest of the country and the region Put differently, thievery rationality of ihe stale must be 'rethought
There ought to be "reasons1 in life, but it is difficult to
understand why such 'reasons' must be borrowed ones,
that loo mostly irom a bygone period ot the West. "This is
not to suggest lhat we replicate what is last turning oui to
be a post-modernist era Ulbett a pseuclo' one) in the
experience of the West, particularly ol Europe, with the
European Union as its flag-bearer
In fact, one. can have seru >us reservations about some
ofthe developments now taking place in Europe, parucu-
larlv on immigration and the treatment ot aliens Rather,
what would be welcome is a serious, innovative and
indigenous effort in developing a rationale for the state
thai is responsible to all 'living' and 'would-be living1
things around, devoid of the current practices ot both
inclusivencss and exclusiveness.
"This is no easy task, but unless we have tried, and
tried well, we cannot just brush it aside simply as another
dream in the quest for free souls and a living blessed with
tranquility in a post-nationalist South Asia'
I. Ahmed is .Associate Professor of International Relations at
the Urn \<et si ty oj Dhaka and editor ofTheoreticai Perspectives,
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Nation, State and Self-Hatred
South Asia lifted the idea of nation
state from borrowed boohs. There is,
however, another way of entering
the twenty-first century.
by Ashis Nandy
The West
are the
and their
When South Asia started us
independent journey as a
collecLion of states in 1947,
it was in one sense a continuation of
the project South Asians had given
themselves towards the middle ofthe
nineteenth century. The project was
the modernisation of the region, and
it had three clear components. We
wanted to build nation states the way
those who then ruled South Asia had
already done in Europe: we wanted
'development', even though the term
had not yet come into vogue: and we
had to inculcate in our generally "su-
persl ltious", "change-resisting"
people an appreciation of the principles of scientific and technological
All three of these responsibilities were formally vested in the
growing states of the newly
decolomsedcountries. Thus, the new
South Asian states had to ensure not
only national security, which slates
had been doing lor centuries, but
also carry the hopes and ambitions ol
Fifty years alter independence,
it is obvious that there was something wrong in the way South Asia
imported the concept of state, as if u
were a talisman We picked n up not
from life but from books As a result,
our idea of the nation state was more
purist than thai ol colonial societies
on which it was modelled We
thought we could get what we needed
from Anglo Saxon universities like
Oxford or Cambridge, so we did not
bother with the particulars ol state-
formation and nation-building in the
The South Asian elite was also
oblivious ol the fact that state-
formation and nation-building usually had quasi-criminal antecedents.
Everywhere, nation states were built
on human sulfenng and disenlran-
chisement of large sections of the
population. This was true even in
England. 11 we had read between the
lines of the formal textbooks of history and politics, we would have
found many instances—from the Enclosure Movement to ihe denial of
franchise to women—which showed
that the emergence ol open society in
the West did not come with the state's
benediction, or from constitutional
changes introduced by an enlightened elite, or from texts. They came
through political processes which the
state did not control.
Not learning Irom the experience of the West, South Asia has
merely telescoped the Western model
into its own societies A kind of self-
hatred is involved in the exercise of
remodelling ourselves according to
someone else's history. That is the
tragedy of virtually every society in
this part of Asia.
A Kind of Self-Hatred
Nothing shows the hazards of this
dependence on texts better than the
surge of ethnic chauvinism in South
Asia, In Sri Lanka, for instance, the
august principles ot Smhala chauvinism, the root cause of today's violence, were worked oul, among others, by Dhammapala. He devised the
model of a monocultural Sinhala nation and a monolithic, dominant
Sinhala culture the same way that
V.D Savarkar developed the principles of Hindutva sitting in Nagpur.
The only difference is that
Dhammapala sat at Calcutta in his
formative years and was influenced
by Vivekananda's writings on Hinduism I do not hold Vivekananda
responsible for the bloodshed today
in Sri Lanka, but Dhammapala might
have chosen to see in Sn Lanka a
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
 different kind of community having a
different concept of public life and a
different form of tolerance He did
not. Having given himself the task of
improving the Sinhala, Dhammapala
managed to create posthumously two
antagonistic nationalities in his country, the Sinhala and the Tamil,
The tragedy ol Sn Lanka is the
tragedy of every society in this part of
the world. Thus, since the end of the
nineteenth century, most major Muslim reformers, reportedly operating
on the basis of the Quran and the
Hadith, have found the Muslims of
S uth Asia and Southeast Asia defi-
_:ent. They have seen the Indonesian
Muslims, who form the largest Muslim country in the world, as peripheral Muslims; Indian Muslims, the
world's second largest Muslim community, as no better, and, of course,
found the fish-eating Bangladeshi
Muslims, the world's third largest
Muslim community, quite obnoxious.
By this reckoning at least 80
percent of the world's Muslims have
been rendered peripheral by
nineteenth-century South Asian Is-
..i.-rii.. reformers and scholars influenced by European specialists on Islam. According to these European
scholars and their disciples in South
Asia, the West Asian Muslims are the
authentic prototypical Muslims and
other Muslims have to try to approximate them
The Politics of Knowledge
The politics of knowledge in South
Asia must begin with the awareness
that knowledge resides not only in
us, or with our patrons or mentors in
the famous universities of the world
Knowledge also originates, exists and
is waiting to be discovered in the
people living around us I, for one,
was pushed into this awareness not
by studies of systems ol knowledge,
but by studies of politics and cultures
of politics
Year ago, some of us, when told
ofthe structural and functional prerequisites ol democracy and why democracy could not survive in countries where education, economic
growth, urbanisation and modernisation were low, wanted to find out
why it was, then, that democracy had
survived in India. We found that the
so-cailed illiterate, rural, poor Indians had a larger stake in the democratic system because they wanted to
change their fate through the use ol
political power Often, their rates ol
political participation were higher and
they granted greater legitimacy to
their political system than the electorate in the "advanced" democracies.
We began to suspect that the
argumeni about structural prerequisites, whether it strengthened democracy or not, were meant to endorse the regimes ol those Southern
societies which had suspended democratic rights but were part tft the
Western bulwark against the red
menace' The whole of Latin Amerit a
was at that time full of tin-pot dictators. South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia also had autocratic regimes
Ferdinand Marcos ofthe Philippines
used the argument to best advantage.
He was, he said, a democrat at heart,
but the Filipinos were not yet fit for
democracy. For the short run, therefore, said Marcos, he had to act like a
strict school master.
Engaging formulations of this
argument have been ventured by everyone from General Suharto to
Mahathir Mohammad. Mahathir still
repeats it, with the only diflerence
that he now adds that, in Islam, the
concept of democracy is different
It is while defying this argument
that we have been pushed towards
other kinds of ideas that would
legitimise culturally-rooted open societies Creation of such societies
would involve a rediscovery of our
other cultural selves, which we have
under-valued. For their part, South
Asians are challenged to rediscover
themselves and come to terms with
their multicultural identity.
Simultaneous Identities
Through the voluminous study of
the Indian Anthropological Survey
on the peoples of India which began
to be published in 1994, we find ihat
there are some six hundred communities in India which still cannot be
identified with any single religion.
They are simultaneously Hindu and
Muslim, Hindu and Sikh, Sikh and
Christian, Sikh and Muslim, and so
on But in cases like that of the Meos,
the largest Muslim community
around Delhi, which traces its ancestry from the Mahahharata, discrimination and communal riots have increasingly threatened this bicultural
identity To the Meos, this identity
now lends to be a liability, exactly as
it is an embarrassment to the
Westernised Indian
1 have gradually come to suspect
that every' person in South Asia has
more than one identity. There is perhaps no other part in the world where
people live with such immense
variety—with about 2000 languages,
20,000 castes and subcastes, more
than 250 tribes, and scores oi regional, ecological and other cultural
differences Sometimes, many of these
difference are lo be found within
a person
The South Asians know how to
live with this diversity, though they
may have forgotten some ot these
skills in recent years, having chosen
to wear new ideological blinkers that
blind them to all traditional
community-based, culturally-transmitted skills. The idea of nation state
we have imported has played an
important role in this self-inflicted
blindness, for the nation states fears
The Japanese are not embarrassed when their census reports that
a majority of Japanese are Shinto and,
also, that a majority of them are Buddhist. But to modern South Asians,
such facts are an embarrassment. They
would like to see someone either as a
Hindu oras a Muslim, because that is
the way of European scholarship,
and we look at ourselves through
its prism.
The end result was that the politicians started exploiting the potential ol having clear-cut self-definitions.
Using such definitions to divide the
populace, they are herding our societies up dangerous paths However,
the politicians make use ol ihese new
possibilities only because modern-
day South Asian intellectuals and the
middle classes have allowed them a
free run in the area ol culture We
have stood as silent witnesses lo the
destruction of ourhertiage. We could
have used this heritage differently
and more creatively, but we have not.
The intellectual challenge in
South Asia, therefore, is to rediscover
the South Asian seif. For ihat, we
need to hrst transcend our own self-
hatred and sell-doubl
A. Sandy is with the Centre for the
Study oj Developing Societies in New
exists and
is waiting
to be
in the
around us
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
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A State and Its Death Sentences
Killer words have a place in the lexicon of states.
Their use can devastate societies.
by Zia Mian
Nations and states are talked into existence, and
kept alive by words. Listening to such words
suggests that while states and nations can speak
different languages, the structure of the languages they
speak is basically the same. And, as Noam Chomsky has
suggested for the more mundane, day-to-day languages
of people, state languages may also have a grammar that
is pre-wired.
The basic "deep structures" of state languages include
national identity, the interests of the state, development
and security. From the United States of America to Niger
(ranked last in the UNDP Human Development Index),
these categories are part of every state's language. But
unlike human language, every state's grammar has a space
for killer-words. These are words that allow murder to be
thought and committed
There are state killer-words that are backed by the
power of the state: a declaration of war which leads to the
deaths of thousands, if not millions, or a judge passing a
verdict of guilty and condemning a person to death. What
marks such words is that only particular people can speak
them, and that, too. only after a process of |udgement.
These slate killer-words are part of the vocabulary of a
system of official power. Without the legitimacy that the
system offers, they are |ust words.
There are also ideological killer-words, which form
part of a state's political process, but are not legal. For
instance, for a person to he called a communist was a
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
There are
now 2416
certain way of getting killed in Chile, Guatemala, Iran or
Then there are words that can kill by unleashing the
mob Almost anyone can use these words and produce a
result The legitimacy, and thus effectiveness, ol these
words lies not in law but in history and culture But make-
no mistake, the state is here too, as the earner and arbiter,
of collective history and culture Where the state picks up
these words and transforms them into ideology or into
law, there is genocide. Where it is silent, it allows other
voices to speak these words.
In Pakistan, these killer-words are being used with
ever greater abandon. They started as a whisper and have
become a chorus. In the process, other voices are being
drowned out.
The Pakistani state lias long been speaking murderous
words, turning again and again to violence to solve
political problems Last Pakistan was just the first speech
One description ot what the Pakistani armed lorces did
will suffice: "The Bengali working class and intelligentsia
were the first major target. The army shelled Dhaka
University and wiped out all the students and lecturers it
could find, soldiers invaded the women's hostel, raping
and killing the inmates Artillery units flattened
working-class areas, and trade-union and newspaper
offices w^ere burnt to the ground. Tens of thousands were
killed in the first few days."
As it is with such things, as time passes the speaker
remembers little ofthe details of what was actually said,
and constructs memories of what they think should have
been said. The massacres in East Pakistan have become
"Indian dismemberment of Pakistan". Similar processes
are at work in the wake of the state's recourse to violence
in Baluchistan in the mid 1970s, Sindh in the early 1980s,
and then Karachi.
These passionate orations have been accompanied
by the more restrained, some would say civilised, conversations that take place in the courts. According to the
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan lUFtCPft from
199ft to 199"5. 361 people were sentenced to deat h. There
are now 241 6 people awaiting execution in Pakistani jails.
The rate at which people will be tried and condemned to death by the courts is certain to increase, as ihe
death penalty has been extended to more and more
crimes. There are already 2432 Ahmadis who have been
charged with "religious offences" and ol these, more than
500 are blasphemy cases. The punishment for blasphemy
is death. With the death penally now imposed for possessing illegal weapons and a confession made to a senior
police ollicer being admitted as evidence in a trial, the
basis is being laid lor a glut of convictions and executions.
These, however, are the official functions where
death is discussed. War and the dispensing ol justice are
both instances where the state has special power because
it has special responsibilities But those who have heard,
and spoken, killer words cannot forget the sounds easily
They begin to rehearse the words to themselves, quietly
enjoying the way they roll oil ihe tongue.
One such murderous phrase is "police encounter1' It
has become commonplace and describes that remarkable
situation where people are arrested by the police and
despite eyewitness evidence that they were unarmed and
did not resist, they turn up dead. HRC.r recorded 180 such
extra-judicial killings in Punjab last year and said there
were "several hundred" such killings in Karachi.
Another is "death in custody". In Karachi, there were
200 deaths in custody, attributed by HRO.Pto torture This
should come as no surprise. There is no investigation to
speak of. no policeman is arrested, mine tried, none
While war and the application ot justice are 'lawful'
speech situations sanctioned by the constitution and the
law. there are other situations in which lawfulness does
not enter, but killer words can be spoken nonetheless.
These are situations that concern the state and especially
its security. These situations arise when someone disagrees wilh the state.
Far lie r this year, there was a seminar organised by the
Islamabad branch ol the Pakistan-India People's Forum
lor Peace and Democracy on what Pakistan's response
should be to India's Prithvi missile. It had prominent
speake rs: there was Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr A H.
Nayyar (both physicists at Islamabad's prestigious
Quaid-i-Azam University) and Dr Inayatullah (a political
scientist), and the Chief Guest was Air Marshal
(retired) Asghar Khan (the former head oi a "liberal"
political party).
The speakers outlined the implications ol Prithvi,
and the dangerous consequences of Pakistan getting into
a missile race with India. The stress was on the simple fact.
that arms racing of any kind, in nuclear weapons,ballistic
missiles or conventional weapons, would exact a much
higher price from Pakistan than India. This was because
July   19%  HIMAL South Asia
India has both a much larger economy which allows it to
easily afford higher spending on weapons than Pakistan,
and a far more developed scientific and technological base
from which it starts in any such race. Like the Soviet
Union, Pakistan would end up destroying itself from the
consequences of diverting ever-more of its precious resources (economic, scientific and human) to the desperate
search for military secunty
The speakers called for a radical rethink of what kind
of security Pakistan actually needed and how to try- to
create the conditions which would allow such security to
be attained. These conditions had to start with a realisation
that peace with India was not only beneficial but necessary
for Pakistan, and that the military burden was fast becoming unbearable and had to be reduced before the country
was cnppled for an entire generation.
The headlines the next day told a different story:
"People's Forum Meeting: Ridiculous Speeches Poking
Fun at Islam, Abusing Armed Forces". Another claimed:
"No Difference Between Islam and Hinduism: Armed
Forces are Eating Away the Country Like Moths". From
the scandal sheets like Al-Akbar, Markaz, Khahrain, Pakistan, and Asas, to the large circulation, supposedly quality,
Urdu language papers like Jang (which covered the story
under the headline "Objectionable Speeches at the Pakistan People's Forum"), there was unanimity that something awlul had happened at the seminar.
But it was in the follow-up to these reports that this
act of mischief created space lor the rats to come out of the
gutter. On 12 February, Jang carried a news story with the
headline: "Prime Minister has ordered an enquiry into
speeches against Pakistan and Islam. Organisers of
non-governmental dialogues between India and Pakistan
are not patriots. Cases should be instituted against them."
The story was a series of comments by politicians
baying for the blood of the participants. The same story
was carried by The headline was "Prime Minister has
ordered an enquiry into the slander against armed forces.
This is treason against the country." There were some of
the same rent-a-quote politicians who had had their say
in Jane, and a few more.
Newspapers seemed to compete for outrageous comments from politicians Nawai-Waqt was not one to be left
out It carried a press release from Hafiz Idrees, a member
o! the jamaat-e-lslami, in which he talked of "traitors and
irreligious Indian agents" and demanded that "those who
made fun of the ideology of Pakistan and the sacred duty
of jihad should be tned Far treason "
There were those who were not content with reporting the preparations for the kill They wanted a piece of
the meat. On the same day as it carried the news quoting
the politicians, ]ang earned an editorial repeating the
story Irom the day before, and this time the tone was even
more sinister: "...speakers engaged in the worst slander
against Islam, Pakistan and the armed forces and mocked
jihad, faith and piety." The comment followed: "We don't
say that a case of treason be instituted and they be
immediately arrested, but our standpoint is that the
government is bound by law to take action against those
who spread these kinds of views."
There were others, but there is little to be gained by
labounng the point. What was happening was an act of
controlling Iree speech. What states choose to call "consensus" on national security, was being challenged by a
discordant note and state-speak requires silence on everyone else's part.
Another situation in which murderous words are spoken
is when the "common-sense" of a nation is challenged.
This sense, as Antonio Gramsci pointed out, is not eternal.
It is affected in large measure (if not totally determined)
by the "sense" of the ruling class at any given time. There
is no law. not even ideology, at stake. Traditions
and customs are brought into play. It becomes a question
of values.
A little over two months ago, the news first broke that
the government had decided to sell several hundred acres
of land in Quaid-i-Azam University campus to its staff to
allow them to huild houses. The matter became highly
charged as two faculty members. Professor Pervez
Hoodbhoy and Dr A.H. Nayyar, objected to the sale of
public property for pnvate gain and went public.
There were both supporters and opponents of the
proposed housing scheme, and it became a public issue
attracting interventions Irom well-known people and
institutions in the leading newspapers and journals in
the country.
Confronted by an eloquent, determined and clearly
moral position, perhaps sensing that public opinion was
starting to turn against them, the supporters ol the qau
Housing Scheme, as it came lo be called, began to attack
the integrity of those who stood in their way. It was the
way in which this was done that exposes the connection
between state and custom.
On the walls of the University, posters claiming to be
from the "members of the qau Staff Housing Scheme"
silence on
else's part
HIMAL South Asia  July  1996
staned to demomse the two faculty members who dissented , 11 was no longer a disagreement ahout a bit of land,
and the balance that needs to be maintained between
public property and pnvate profit, or the needs of future
generations as compared to satisfying the desires of the
present Amid the most amazing accusations—of 25-
year-old conspiracies hatched in the United States, secret
meetings m far-off places with Indians and Israelis, and
dubious bank accounts—the dissenters were labelled
"anti-patriotic","Ahmadis" and "anti-Islamic",
Among all these words there is one thai is lethal
beyond a doubt. To call someone an Ahmadi in Pakistan
is no simple act ol religious identification, as everyone
knows. The violence that is done to the Ahmadi community, legitimised by the profoundly unjust law that marks
them out from other citizens, is common knowledge.
'Ahmadi' is a killer word
What is particularly significant is that everyone at
QAU knows that in October 1994, Dr. Nasim Babar, a
faculty member of QAU who lived on campus, was killed
in his own home by a masked intruder. Dr. Babar was an
Ahmadi and, not surprisingly, no one was arrested tor his
killing By connecting dissent with the qau Housing
Scheme to the Ahmadi issue, it is clear what signals are
being sent. There is no ambiguity. One poster ends,
ominously: "Has our university become a refuge for
evil-doers? All of us have to answer."
While the 'Ahmadi' word stirs the professional zealots, it is not guaranteed to bring out the mob. That now
requires an accusation of blasphemy. Just how frightful
this can be was witnessed last year with the case
of  Salamat,   Rehmat   and   Mansoor  Masih,   three
Chnstian citizens who were accused of blasphemy. One
was killed and another wounded outside the court
while under trial.
The survivors, after being found innocent, still had to
ilee the country. Even more horrific was the case of Hafiz
Farouq in Gujranwala, dragged around the streets and
then set on lire after someone alleged he had committed
an act of desecration of the Koran. The allegation was
sufficient and no one even remembers who first made it.
As the French writer Albert Camus once observed, bloodshed is like alcohol, it eventually intoxicates like the
headiest of wines Pakistan has been drinking deep of
this deadly vintage for years and now seems to have
reached that state of drunkenness where judgement is
lost, speech becomes passionate and then starts to become blurred Things are said, and forgotten by the next
morning. There is only a hangover, and some embarrassment, as reminder.
At nsk from this are that handful ol people who are
trying to do what sincere intellectuals are supposed to do.
The)' arc raising their voice, the voice ol intellectual
conscience They are unwilling to accept simplistic formulas masquerading as truth, and reject the comforts ol
agreeing with whatever the government of the day, or
social convention, may want to be true. They refuse to
speak the language ol the state.
2. Mian is a research fellow at the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute, Islamabad.
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Not every project that the World Bank
proposes to the countries of South Asia
is in their interest. So how do you go
about challenging the Bank?
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
About the World Bank (in South Asia)
Joe Wood is probably the most powerful
man in South Asia although hardly a
man, woman or child, in the hundreds of
thousands of villages and cities in the
Subcontinent would be able to tell you what
he does or where he works. Yet, from his
office, Mr Wood has a major say in the
budgets of every one-of the seven South
Asian countries. In 1995 alone, he presided
over USD 3 billion in projects across the
Subcontinent, ranging from health care to
mega-dams. In the 52 years of its existence,
his institution has loaned over USD 59
billion to projects to South Asia, from high
ly Pratap Chatterjee
ways in the Himalaya to fisheries in Indian
Ocean atolls.
Mr Wood (picture above) is Vice President of the World Bank and Director of its
South Asia Regional Office.
A US dozen who went to school at Yale,
the University of Munich and Oxford,
Mr Wood does not work in Karachi, Dhaka
or New Delhi. Neither does his right-hand
man, Heinz Vergin, a German who studied
in Berlin, the London School of Economics
and the University of Minnesota, and who
oversees all the Bank projects work in
Bhutan, India and Nepal.
For the past 28 years, Mr Wood has
reported for work to two buildings that lie a
scant four blocks from the White House.
Wood works at 701 Nineteenth Street and
his assistant, Mr Vergin, on the third floor of
1776 G street—both of which are part of a
complex of buildings in Washington DC
that house the headquarters of the World
Ten Nepali activists had a unique opportunity to do battle with Mr Wood in late
June 1994 when they came to this city to
question a proposed World Bank loan for a
billion dollar dam on the Arun River in east
HIMAL South Asia July   1996
Nepal. Dressed uncomfortably in suits and
ties, the activists sat down to argue with his
staff about the high cost ofthe project (more
than the annual budget of the kingdom) as
Mr Wood moderated the discussion.
Mr Wood's position was clear. "We are
not in the business of negotiating this
(project) with interested parties. Our obligation is to consult to try and improve the
quality," he told those gathered in the room.
That was not entirely correct, of course, for
the World Bank had for long appointed
itself as the "lead agency" for developing
Nepal's power sector, making plans and
directing affairs to the extent of choosing
feasible projects, demanding fiscal discipline, and raising electricity tariffs.
And so, a year later, the Nepali activists
might well have chuckled over Mr Wood's
discomfiture as his new boss James
Wolfensohn, President of the Bank, overrode his suggestions and cancelled plans to
pay for the dam. Within Nepal, the Arun
cancellation was a debacle for the Bank, and
today it finds itself in the periphery of power
sector discussions. However, the potential
impact goes far beyond Nepal's borders, for
the success ofthe anti-Arun activists proved
to activists all over that it was possible for
local groups armed with information and
commitment, to challenge the Bank and
force its hand.
Earlier, activists who opposed the mammoth three-billion dollar Sardar Sarovar
Project over the Narmada river in India
had also been successful in forcing the bank
to review its impact and cancel financial
Because of its ability to influence the
course of societies, before Narmada and
Arun III, there was a belief that it was
impossible to question what the Bank did.
The cancelling of support for the two projects
showed the Bank's inability to defend
schemes of which it had been a vehement
supporter. It turned out that the moment
knowledgeable activists put on the heat, the
Bank's defences collapsed. From the two
instances, activists have got an idea that the
Bank, after all, is not invincible. It can be
right, but it can also be wrong, in which case
it should be brought to task.
Unfortunately, the lessons from the two
episodes are not being learnt by the governments of South Asia. The Indian government has decided to go through with the
Narmada project despite the withdrawal of
support by the Bank, blaming activists for
blocking'development' and 'progress'. And,
the Nepali government regards Arun as a
national disaster that was brought about by
unprincipled "environmentalists'. Their arguments made for national capability buil d-
ing and against the top-down method of
development that Arun exemplified are regarded as mere sophistry. Elsewhere, in
India and Nepal, as in the rest of South Asia,
it is business as usual as far as the donor
banks and recipient governments are
Development as Usual
While the two episodes might be seen as a
setback for the Bank as far as the
highly-visible dam projects are concerned,
its influence in other spheres continues
unabated, from education to sanitation,
highway projects to coal-powered power
The big development proj ects like dams
are not the only thing that the Bank lends
money for. No, Mr Wood has far more clout
than that. He gets to dictate the terms and
conditions of national budgets although in
recent years the Bank has sought to downplay
this aspect of its work after Bharat Bhusan,
ajoumalist with the Indian Express, revealed
that officials in Washington were given drafts
of the Indian government budget proposals
even before they were presented to the
Indian Parliament.
Perhaps the most dangerous instrument that the Bank has ever had at its
disposal is something called "structural
adjustment programmes" (SAPs) which are
essentially loans to the general coffers ofthe
government in return for very strict changes,
in the government budget such as cuts in
health and education expenditure and
privatisation of national agencies like the
electricity and telephone companies. The
Bank's logic is that the government should
not subsidise sectors that can pay for themselves and tuma profit. Unfortunately, most
of these industries are often snapped up by
foreign multinationals who see no reason to
provide services to the poor for the simple
reason that they cannot afford to pay for the
cost of providing these services to remote
It is not that macro-economic figures
have not improved as a result of SAPs.
Bangladesh, which embarked on the path of
liberalisation in the early 1990s, saw its
exports surge by more than 25 percent in
the first half of 1994-95 over the same
period in the preceding year. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose by 5 percent, up
from 3.4 percent in 1990-91. Industrial
growth was estimated at 10 percent against
4.5 percent five years before.
However, critics say that, as is the case
all over South Asia, economic liberalisation
of the kind promoted by the Bank has only
helped Bangladesh's rich and not the two-
thirds of the 120 million population which
lives below the poverty line. Worse, hundreds of textile mills, battery manufacturers, ceramic units, small machinery and
spares making concerns are having to pull
down shutters in the face of competition
from foreign manufacturers. According to
economist Anu Mahmood, some 3.5 million Bangladeshi textile workers could lose
their jobs if effective steps are not taken
to check imports of foreign goods allowed
by the liberalised policies.
The Pakistani government's
privatisation policies have already laid off
tens of thousands of workers. More than
60,000 workers were eased out when the
previous Nawaz Sharif government sold 69
state-owned industrial and commercial units
to private purchasers. Privatisation plans of
the present Benazir Bhutto administration
threaten to axe another 240,000 jobs in the
power, railways, telecommunications, en-
Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India, and Ayub Khan, president of Pakistan, sign the
Indus Waters Treaty, 19 September 1960, while Sir William Lliff of the World Bank looks on.
July  1996  HIMAL South Asia
ergy and transport sectors.
Even Nepal, with its very tiny industrial
sector, has not been spared, A study found
that nearly half of the about 2,400 workers
employed by the 10 state enterprises
privatised since 1992, have lost their jobs.
In countries like India where the public
sector, particularly services, is the largest
employer of women, (11 percent of all jobs
are held by women) closure and privatisation
are already pushing large numbers of working women to labour under dismal conditions in the unorganised sector.
The Region's Health
The International Labour Organisation, in a
study published this April, points out that
SAPs simply aggravate poverty and inequality of incomes rather than the intended
opposite. That, in turn, rebounds to the
detriment of education, with less favoured
economic groups withdrawing their children from the school system, especially
secondary institutions.
In Bangladesh, experts blame the Bank's
SAPs for the sharp drop in agricultural growth
rates from 5 percent in 1989-90 to 0.2
percent at present, even though 80 percent
ofthe country's population toil on the land.
According to Bangladesh farm expert M. A.
Sattar, the government's withdrawal of subsidies from the agricultural sector—under
SAPS—is directly responsible for the decline
in farm yields.
SAPs have also been blamed for the
recent declines in healthcare. Last September, the regional office of the World Health
Organisation (WHO), based in New Delhi,
voiced concern in a report entided Alternative Financing of Health Care. The diminishing expenditure on basic health care in
South Asia—one percent or less of the gnp
of the regional countries—was "more notable in those countries undergoing political and economic reforms," it stated.
Dr Prabir Chatterjee, a doctor in a tribal
area of Bihar, complains that the Bank has its
priorities distorted when it urges governments to privatise basic health services.
India's health priorities are being set by
international organisations like the World
Bank, he says. "They lend us money to use
to buy AIDS testing kits made by foreign
companies but there is no money to buy
medicines that can be made in India for
diseases like malaria which kill tens of thousands of people."
Elsewhere in South Asia, too, experts
feel that the Bank has taken its AIDS prevention work too far. Last July, the Bank told
Bangladesh that the number of tuberculosis
cases related to hiv infection (the virus that
causes AIDS) will hit 12,000 by the end of
this century, a figure that the health ministry rejected as "absolutely bogus, baseless
and unfounded."
Elsewhere, Bank projects are said to be
the source of health problems. In the state of
Orissa, experts found an astonishing 67
percent of men and 64 percent of women
near a Bank-financed coal-fired power plant
suffering from fluorosis, a bone-weakening
disease. And now, the Bank's private sector
affiliate, the International Finance Corporation, proposes to place India's biggest steel
mill with its own sizeable coal-fired power
plant in the tribal Ganjam District, where
infant mortality rates are already among the
highest in the world. In the Singrauli region
of central India, Bank-financed coal mines
and power plants have displaced some
150,000 people, some as many as five times
over in the last two decades.
This May, the Bank lent Orissa another
USD 350 million to facilitate power expansion in the state.
Although the Bank
has also just approved a USD 63
million loan for social programmes
and environmental
rehabilitation for
people affected by
power projects and
mines, it now plans
to give India another USD 5 0 0 million to expand 25
coal mines. Billions
more are expected
to pay for expansion of coal-fired
power plants in
coming years.
These activities make activists
see red. "The loss of natural resources, loss
of occupation for thousands of fishermen
and farmers, the miseries due to health
hazards and displacement far outweigh the
development that coal-fired power in Orissa
is ushering in," says Sisir Tripathy, coordinator of the District Action Group (DAG), a
group of 21 non-governmental organisations
in the heavily industrialised Talcher-Angul
region of Orissa.
But these expansions are inevitable,
says Paul Mitchell, a spokesman for the
South Asia department of the Bank. "In
general, there is no getting away from coal
being mined in India and used for power
generation, given that coal, with reserves of
about 250 years, is the least cost source of
energy for most uses in the country. So the
question is to use the resource most effi
ciently and with the least negative impacts,"
he says.
Internal Assessments
Does the World Bank ever admit that its
grand economic policies and mega-projects
sometimes fail? Only sometimes, and with
reluctance. Projects funded by the Bank in
South Asia are assessed on the basis of the
Bank's operational directives and policies
by the Bank's own staff who generally work
in one of the two country departments that
Wood runs (see Pg 28 for current list of
division chiefs and department directors)
The country department staff work closely
with several other specialist departments
such as the Asia Technical department which
oversees matters like engineering and the
Environmentally Sustainable Development
department which offers advice on environmental matters. These departments do not
often see eye to eye and it is not uncommon
1818 H Street NW, World Bank's newly renovated HQ
for country department staff to hire outside
consultants in order to avoid negative evaluations from staff environmentalists. Outside
consultants rarely ever give negative evaluations for fear of losing work in the future.
Once a favourable project report has
been prepared and approved by the board,
the only way to stop work from going ahead
is by appealing to the newly created Inspection Panel. This body, which was set up in
the autumn of 1994, was instrumental in
stopping the Arun III project. But it is disliked intensely by the Bank management,
which takes every opportunity to hamstring
its work. Finally, even after a project is
finished, there is one department that can
still take the Bank to task for mistakes made
during the execution ofthe project. This is
the Operations Evaluation Department
HIMAL South Asia July  1996
iOHDi. which can review completed projects,
although its recommendations are not binding on the Bank,
The recently did a negative evaluation of the Mahaweli dam scheme in Sri
Lanka, a project in which it played a prominent advisory role. The evaluation report
stated that "incomes were much lower than
expected" at the project appraisal stage-
However, said the report, "the project turned
out to be unsatisfactory in economic terms,
less because ol poor design, or poor implementation, but because the terms of trade
shifted against rice production "
The Loan Process
It is one thing for the Bank to do an ex-post
facto evaluation and quite another lor activists to question the rosy claim made in an
appraisal report before a project is commis-
Projects funded by the Bank in South Asia arc
assessed on the basis of the Banks operational
directives and policies by the Bank's own staff
sioned—which was what the Nepali activists did in the case ot Arun 111 Indeed,
questioning the Bank's experts or challenging it is no easy task What the Arun case
indicated is that those who would challenge
the Bank must have authentic information
in their hands and be able to skilfully use
various points ol support to counteract the
Bank's own traditional bases of support
(.most important ol all, ihe governments
Even ll a person who is troubled by a
new Bank project in the Subcontinent decided to pick up a telephone lo dial Wood's
In Big Brother's Footsteps
THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) is known as the "Japanese" bank, and largely
follows the footsteps of its big brother, the World Bank
Like the World Bank, the ADB says it has turned a new green leaf to make itsell
more nature-friendly and people-friendly by giving local communities the opportunity to voice opposition to projects deemed undesirable.
In response to criticism from international activist groups, the ADB has followed
the World Bank in putting into place greater transparency m project planning and the
setting up of "inspection panels". The bank is also moving away from its traditional
domain—big infrastructure projects that critics said ultimately benefitted only
Japanese contractors and car exporters—to social welfare sectors like education and
basic health.
The Bank says it has achieved its target of having half oi its jirojects in the social
and environment sectors. It claims that 40 percent of its loan column is given over to
these "soft" sectors. Says ADB vice-president Peter Sullivan: "We started out as an
infrastructure bank, which concentrated on things like irrigation and power. Now
we're looking at environmental issues, women's issues, maternal and child health care
and micro-credit."
Critics, however, are not satisfied and would like to study the cntena the bank
uses to classify "social projects". They have banded together into a regional campaign
to reform ADB's lending policies, and maintain that although there is a welcome change
in the "commitment level" at the ADB, it is still business as usual in many areas of
"Compared to the World Bank, the ADB is more cautious, discreet and operates
more on consensus," says Antonio Quizon of the Asian ngo Coalition for Agrarian
Relorm and Rural Development But despite the new disclosure policy, he says the
Bank is not fully transparent about project information.
Bank sources say they are drawingup a list of "outside experts" to comprise panels
that the board of directors can appoint to discuss complaints by activists and affected
residents from project sites. These independent panels would be able to present
"reasonable evidence" relating to projects that they believe violate the Bank's own
South Asian activists who met witb their regional counterparts recently in Manila,
where the adb is headquartered, say that they too are not satisfied that the ADB is
completely transparent about projects that it intends to be involved in. Activists in
Gujarat say that despite denials from Manila, a huge loan provided by the Bank to India
for new energy projects will go partially to build the USD 3 billion Sardar Sarovar dam
on the Narmada River. This was the project that the World Bank pulled out of three
years ago.
olhce or tried to send him a fax or an email,
the chances ol getting a personal reply are
rather low As with ali bureaucracies, the
tendency is to ignore ihe petitioner unless
he makes such a compelling case and so
much noise that it is impossible to ignore.
The very first step before going public,
then, is to get detailed information about ihe
project and the Bank's decision-making process itself,
Piojects like the Arun dam often first
see the light of day at regular country-specific
"donor" meetings that are typically held at
the Paris offices ol ihe Bank (sometimes the
meetings are held elsewhere just as India's
meeting will be held m Tokyo this year)
Large borrowers like India are granted these
special audiences with the Bank ever)- year,
while smaller borrowers like Bhutan may
have to wan lor other opportunities to meet
individual Bank officials to propose new
One such forum is the Bank's own
annual meetings which take place al its
Washington headquarters every autumn and
are attended by finance ministers of almost
every country in the world. (This meeting is
held outside the city once every three years
such as ihe one in Madrid in 1994 and the
upcoming one in Hong Kong in 1997.)
Unfortunately none ol these discussions are ever made public, so the activist
might prefer to take the next best route to
find out about proposed new projects, which
is to subscribe to a monthly Bank publication called ihe Monthly Operations Summary, which lists all the projects in the
world that the Bank agrees to study for
possible lunding. Theoretically, one should
also be able to get such information from
local finance ministries but in practice that
might be a little more difficult.
Technology permitting, slightly more
detailed information on all jmijects that are
close to approval cm also be immediately
obtained via an electronic search of the
World Bank's computer site on the World
Wide Web (.http.//www.worldbank org/
htmlypc/PIDs/html) where a page-long summary ot proposed projects can be found
(this is known as ihe Project Information
Document) together with a summary environmental impact statement (known as
Environmental Data Sheets). The Bank also
often makes available paper copies ol an
Environmental Impact Assessment :.[UA) of
ihe project it the borrower government is-
96  HIMAL South Asia
sues permission. Most of these documents
are available at the Public Information Centre of the World Bank in Washington and
should also be available at the local offices of
the World Bank in national capital cities
(see the end ofthe article for phone and fax
numbers of these offices).
Do people affected by the project go to
these offices to look up these documents?
The answer is no because most of the affected people are too poor to travel to such
places. Instead the Bank recently discovered
that these offices are mostly frequented by
the people who hope to make money out of
the projects, i.e. engineering consultants
and building contractors. These groups bid
against each other to help Bank staff prepare
more confidential Staff Appraisal Reports
(SARs) on each project before it gets taken to
the Bank's board of executive directors for a
final funding decision.
Executive board meetings
are conducted every Tuesday
and Thursday at-the Washington headquarters. Onceaproject
is approved by the board of
directors, it is almost too late to
stop it from going ahead. All
countries   are   represented
through one or the other of the
24 executive directors but the
voting power of each official
depends on the dollar contributions made
by the countries he or she represents. Thus
Abdul Karitn Lodhi, the director representing Afghanistan has no power for all intents
and purposes, while J an Piercy, the executive director who represents the United
States, controls almost a fifth of the votes on
the board.
Consultants for the Bank
Wealthy countries, like the US, often make
all ot the project documents (including the
SARs) directly available to contractors and
consultants. In the US for example, there is
a library in the Department of Commerce
where anybody can borrow reports overnight. Often reports arrive before they are
approved in contravention of the Bank's
own guidelines. In every state capital in this
country, there is an office to assist potential
contractors and in embassies such as in
Jakarta, Indonesia, lists of projects in the
country for which external finance is available, are provided and updated regularly.
Regular perusal of such reports can give
consultants and companies advantages in
winning contracts. Borrowers also have to
advertise internationally forall projects over
a certain amount to establish a competitive
bidding process. All projects are also advertised through Development Business, a bulle
tin published by the United Nations, within
two weeks of approval of the board of directors. Subscribers to this publication, which
costs USD 500 a year, are a lucky lot: one
advertisement font claims that one in three
subscribers wins a contract from the Bank.
Better still they offer an electronic service
that allows companies to access the information as soon as it is approved. This service costs over twice as much.
The consultants who the Bank hires
make a quick three-week trip to the site for
fees that can range up to USD 10,000 a
month per head. Technically, companies
from any country can win contracts but in
practice it is the wealthy countnes that
profit the most. A United States Treasury
study ofthe number of contracts won by US
companies, shows that US companies won
USD 2.7 billion in contracts in 1993 for the
The International Labour Organisation, in a
study published this April, points out that
SAPs simply aggravate poverty and inequality
of incomes rather than the intended opposite
USD 1.5 billion that the government contracted to the multilateral banks. The authors of the Treasury study say that the
estimates are crude and represent perhaps
40 percent of the real amount because not
all contracts are identified by country of
origin, especially if they are below a certain
Contractors who have been big winners in recent years include (for amounts
above USD 50 million) Nevvmont Mining of
Colorado, General Motors of Michigan,
McDermott of Louisiana, Caterpillar of Illinois, Ameritech of Illinois, Coca-Cola of
Georgia, General Electric, and Chevron
Chemicals of California. Other big winners
include Time-Warner of California, 3M,
Bankers Trust, Cargill, Dupont, Exxon, Ford,
Harvard University, Monsanto, Mack Tracks
and Union Carbide.
The work that many of these consultants and contractors do is often shoddy.
World Bank statistics collected in 1993 by
Willi Wapenhans, a former World Bank
vice-president, showed that 37.5 percent of
Bank projects were failures on economic
grounds alone, let alone on environmental
or social grounds. Patrick McCully, of the
California-based International Rivers Network, says that one recent example of poor
quality work was a study conducted for the
Bank by a UK-based company called Environmental Resources Management (erm),
which travelled to the Narmada Valley in
India in March 1993 to examine the impact
of the Sardar Sarovar dam project.
The Bank was told by the ERM team
about the marvellous "public health benefits," "opportunities for environmental
improvement provided" by the project with
"no major work outstanding (for) afforestation" which was carried out "in accordance
with the wishes of the oustees." Yet, the
team spent most of their time at an office
hundreds of miles away, had visited the
dam site once and never bothered to visit
the resettlement sites.
One member of the team claimed that
when she visited the site, she had not seen
any trees, and concluded that the environmental impact of the dam would be minimal. "They went there in March,
well into the dry season when
the deciduous trees ofthe area
have lost their leaves," says
McCully, adding, "Consultants
like these are just j^rostitutes
who take their clients' money
and do what they know that the
client will like. They have no
professional accountability to
anyone other than their paymasters."  Likewise,  McCully
says the consultants' acceptance of government claims of adequate plans for resettlement was naive.
Proposed New Loans
Does i ts long list of failures, its collaboration
with often questionably-motivated governments, its poor quality of contractor-consultants, deter the Bank Irom pushing more.
and more projects on South Asia? Hardly, it
would seem. Today, the Bank has plans for
big new loans to South Asia. The latest
Monthly Operation Summary lists some
USD 220 million in proposed new loans to
Nepal (that is to say, another USD 220
million in new debts in a couple of years
unless these jxoject generate some income,
which is unlikely given the Bank's track
record to date), USD 450 million in proposed new loans to Sri Lanka, USD-1.3
billion in proposed new loans to Bangladesh,
USD 1.4 billion in proposed new loans to
Pakistan, and a staggering USD 6.5 billion
in proposed new loans to India. A
P. Chatterjee is San Francisco-based Global
Environment Editor of the Inter Press Service
news agency.
HIMAL South Asia July   1996
j^Ste^ to Get at the Bank
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (The World Bank)
1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433, USA
South Asia Regional Office
Vice President: Joseph Wood, Ph: 4581429, Fax: 4776070
External relations: Paul Mitchell, Ph: 4581423, Fax: 5220321
Country Department 1
(Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
Director: Mieko Nishimizu, Ph: 4580600, Fax: 4772612
Division Chiefs
Agriculture & Natural Resources: Ridvvan Ali, Ph: 4581862, 522 1778
Energy & Project Finance: Per Ljung, Ph: 4581933, Fax: 4778598
Infrastructure Operations: Marie Robinson, Ph: 4738694
Fax: 4775520
Population & Human Resources Operations: Barbara Herz
Ph: 4733483, Fax: 5223408
Private Sector Development & Finance: Marylou Uy, Ph: 4737456
Fax: 5221775
Country Department 2
(Bhutan, India, Nepal)
Director: Heinz Vergin, Ph: 4580332, Fax: 4774510
Division Chiefs
Industry &: Finance: Luis Ernesto Derbez, Ph: 4739570, Fax: 4777352
Agriculture & Water Operations: Shawki Bhargouti, Ph: 4584010,
Energy & Infrastructure: Jean-Francois Bauer, Ph: 4581470
Fax: 4778556
Population & Human Resources Operations: Richard Lee Skolnik
Ph: 4580298, Fax: 4770397
Environment: Richard Cambridge, Ph: 4580302
Country Offices
Resident Representative: Pierre Landell-Mills
External Relations: Subrata Dhar
Ph: +880 2 861056-68, Fax: +880 2 86.3220
Resident Representative: Javed Khalilzadeh-Shirazi
External Relations: Bimla Bissell
Ph: +91 11 4617241-4, 461 0210-24,4619496-8
Fax: +91 114619393
Resident Representative: Joe Manickavasagam
External Relations: Rajiv Upadhyaya
Ph: +977 1 226792-3, 226766, 223761, 222236, 223215-7
Pax: +977 1 225112
Resident Representative: Sadiq Ahmed
External Relations: Ghulam Mustafa
Ph: +92 51 819781-6, Fax: +92 51 210964
Sri Lanka:
Resident Representative: J. Roberto B. Bentjerodt
External Relations: Gallaje Panyawardene
Ph: +94 1 421840, 448070-1, Fax: +94 1 440357
Executive Directors representing South Asia:
Bimal Jalan (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka)
Ph: 4581046, Fax: 5221553
Abdul Karim Lodhi (Afghanistan, Pakistan plus others)
Ph: 4581084, Fax: 4779052
Suwan Pasugswad (Nepal plus others)
Ph: 4581197, Fax: 4774116
Faisal Al-Khaled (Maldives plus others)
Ph: 4581030, Fax: 4773537
Inspection Panel
Ernst Gunther Broder
Ph: 4585022, Fax: 4773537
Environmentally Sustainable Development Department
Vice President: Ismail Serageldin
Ph: 4734502
Asia Technical Department
Director: Harold Messenger
Ph: 4732000, Fax: 5221663
Operations Evaluation Department
Director General: Roberto Piciotto
Ph: 4584569, Fax: 5223200
External Relations: Rachel Weaving, Ph: 4731719
Pax: 5223200
(All telephone numbers in the Washington DC headquarters are with country and area code+1 202. All officials canbe emailed by following
a simple formula of prefixing the surname with the initial of the first name and then adding to the end of the surname. A
message to Heinz Vergin should be addressed to hvergfn@wor! and a message to Richard Cambridge, for example, would be
addressed to
! BankofficMs andgovemment officials are often unresponsive to pressure emahatingfmm organisations in recipient countries, soitpaysjo have access »
' to people m Washington D.C.. A variety of groups based in-Xhatciiy will help loco* groups press their grievances with the appropriate officials. Perhaps
M bestway to start is to-contact agroup called the Bank Information Cen tre (BIC), a non-profit organisation that researches information for project-affected
■people. BIC will help arrange support from other expert environmental arid development groups and meetings with key Bank officials if necessary. ■
Bank Informal ion Centre
2025 Eye Street NW, Suite 400
J *    Washington DC 20006
; ft   Ph: 4668189, Fax: 4668189
July 1996 HIMAL South Asia
The Shadow Citizens
There are gays in every society, including Bengali society, and
there is no sense in suppressing and stifling homosexuality.
by Afsan Chowdhury
They will forgive me if I commit a
murder but not if they find out that 1
have a boy friend." Mohsi n is 28 years
old, a Bangladeshi, and a gay. He was speculating on the possible reaction of his upper
middle class family members if they were to
discover his sexual preference. Having
graduated two years ago, Mohsin has landed
a decent job in a development outfit and
knows his mother wilt push lor his marriage
as soon as his youngest sister ties the knot.
He is terrified of that moment He plans not
to tell his family, and not to marry either
Is he overreacting? There has been a
number ol cases where the family has accepted the same sex proclivity ol their sons,
and even daughters. While family dinners
with same sex partners are still not in,
children are not thrown out il they are
revealed to be homosexuals.
Gay Bangla
But there certainly arc difficulties when
homosexuals first declare lheir preference,
known as "coming out" in gay parlance
Most families respond with dismay and a
kind ol corporate shame. Many feel that
they have gone wrong somewhere in the
child's upbringing.
Since some gay activists in Bangladesh
are very highly educated, once in a while,
foreign education is cited as a reason for
being gay In tact, Bangladeshis are very
active on the global gay scene But those still
in the closet oscillate between contusion,
guilt and lear. "Why do they hate us7" asks
a gay man in Dhaka. "Except for preferring
people ol the same sex as partners we have
done nothing wrong."
Being gay in Bangladesh isn't easy because society responds differently to sexuality in publicand in private To put it bluntly,
society is hypocritical, for it says one thing
and does another. People involved with gay
issues say that between 5 to 10 percent of
the population is homosexual That would
mean at least 6 to 12 million Bangladeshis,
more than the total population of many
countries, prefer the same sex
Even if that estimate is considered to be
on the higher side and is reduced by half, the
number left would still be significant But
almost no discussion can take place on the
subject, even with the threat of HIV/A IDS
looming over Bangladeshis and gays being
identified as one of the most vulnerable
Criminal Behaviour
One of the reasons that homosexuality is
treated so gingerly is that the country's
Criminal Code decrees sodomy (homosexuality or advocacy of the same) a crime which
is punishable with a |ail sentence. Any discussion, not to speak ot debate, is hence
ruled out and homosexuality is driven into
the shadow world.
Demonstration ol homosexual tendencies lor short periods is quite common in
Bangladeshi society. Those practising it are
not ostracised, although it caught, are ridiculed. Like in other societies, gay relationships flourish in dormitories, barracks,
labour colonies and hostels, and authorities
are hard pressed to keep them a secret.
In the Dhaka University dorms, cases of
young boys being kept as "regulars" are well
known. Male prostitutes are available in
most towns. And in rural areas, homosexuality is generally considered something that
young people do lor km and some elders
may do in secret. Male homosexuality-
is tolerated despite religious sanction.
Yet divorce  citing gay behaviour by any
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
partner is not known.
It is a different story for lesbians, however. Although it is no secret that dormitories record incidences of lesbianism, and
studies have corroborated the fact, it is kept
a secret fearing loss of marriage prospects.
And marriage, after all, is society's idea of a
woman's ultimate nirvana. Literature has
recorded a high incidence of shafehi culture,
where proximate friendship develops between two women in which emotions are at
least romantic and may lapse into "touching", though both parties may deny any
sexual overtones in such relationships. Psychologists say many shakhis may be substitutes for boyfriends.
Society frowns upon single women,
and the social pressure to marry—doesn't
matter who to—is intense. Most succumb to
it, despite their sexual preferences, and end
up miserably knotted.
Heterosexual girls suffer in marriages
with male gays too. "I can't run away from
my responsibilities. 1 have a family. So I stay
although we are like strangers at home,"
says Sultana, a 30-plus housewife married
to a gay. Many gays, forced into marriage,
often resort to clandestine and then increasingly open gay relationships, leaving women
with a dead marriage to have and to hold.
Children, economic dependence and
"shame" prevents any divorce actions.
There are some instances of lesbians
entering permanent relationships, but most
lesbians are married and whatever sexual
liaisons they may enter into are purely by
chance. "1 have had sex with a woman only
once in my life," says Zaheda, who works for
a travel agency and lives with her disabled
sister. The tolerance level for lesbians is very
low in Bengali society. It is low for women
in general. One either worships them
(mother models) or abuses them (partners).
West Bengal
The situation is somewhat different in Bengali
society across the border in India. At the
elite level, there is considerable acceptance
of homosexuality and of gay groups. Homosexuals keep in touch with each other
through magazines like Provortak (published
from Calcutta) or through gay organisations.
Some activists in Calcutta are directly involved in running sexual health projects
jointly with official agencies.
Although India also has the same laws
relating to sodomy, gays are not prosecuted.
A petition for scrapping the sodomy laws is
awaiting action at the Supreme Court in
New Delhi. A number of organisations like
the Humsafar Foundation have been working for wider acceptance of gays in Indian
society with some degree of success, In West
Bengal, there have been occasional instances
of harassment, but gays can operate with
relative openness. Gay prostitution is high,
operating out of parks and other public
Some Calcutta lesbians, many of them
married, have set up private clubs which are
basically places to get together. But the
stigma of female homosexuality remains
strong in West Bengal as well, even though
the pages of Provortak are full of pieces by
lesbians discussing their problems.
In Bangladesh, it looks as if the sodomy
laws will remain in the books for some time
to come, not a little because of religious
opposition. Whatever society may do in
private, publicly they want respectable
laws. In India, social attitudes are more
liberal and relaxed, which allows gays to
"come out" and access health and other
services more easily.
Meanwhile, the least that the authorities could do is wake up to the reality of gay
behaviour and recognise that health and
social issues are becoming more and more
pressing where homosexuals are concerned.
Homosexuality does not disappear by ignoring it. Some Middle Eastern societies
have adopted a pragmatic approach by maintaining that because homosexuality is a crime
committed against God, the matter should
be dealt by Him onjudgement Day. Perhaps
this interpretation should be used to provide Bengali gays with some respite as well,
if not in society at large, at least in law?
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A seminar/workshop
on Leather and
Leather Products is
scheduled for the
month of July 1996.
Preparatory meeting
preceding the Third
SAARC Ministerial
Conference on Children of South Asia
Islamabad, Pakistan,
24 July 1996.
SAARC conference
on Cooperation in Police Matters is scheduled to be held in
Colombo on 29th July
-August 1996.
Meeting of the group
of Experts to Review
the "SAARC chairs,
Scholarship and Fellowship Scheme"
which is scheduled to
be held in Sri Lanka
from 26-28 July 1996,
South Asia Tourism
"I here is now a South Asian Timnsm Secretariat (SATS), headquartered at the Taj Samudra Hotel
m fti'lumbo and supported hy the European Commission Three regional workshops have been
held in tar, in New Delhi Male, and ihe latest in Kathmandu in late June The Secretariat is
working to develop regional occupational standards for ihe tourism sector in South Asia and to
seek recognition tor standards from international organisations. According to an official,
the in cupational standards will allow recognition of work skills (in areas such as housekeeping,
tood production, travel operations, tour guiding, etc ) across the tourism sectors in each ofthe
regional countries "I he Sect etanai is the executive arm of the Regional Tourism Human Resource
Development Committee, which itsell represents national committees in each of the seven
regional c outlines (SA'l S. Taj Samudra Hotel. 25 G a lie Face Centre Road,Colombo 3, Sri Lanka,
Fax  '-.H/I/S4H717 Email  satsCftsn lanka net)
Poverty Eradication
"SAARC Seven Sisters. Distrii t development t oordination and improved poverty project design"
is the title of a project just launched by SAARC, envisaging the creation of six districts, one in
each ol six ofthe seven member countries i Bhutan lias not joined). A four-day workshop held
at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu saw the initiation of an exercise to prepare well-tested
designs oi programmes lor poverty eradication.
South Asian Peace Charter
This news has reached us late A seminar on the role ol the human rights community and conflict
resolution in South Asia was held in Strasbourg in December 1995 At that seminar, a group of
South Asians who attended—notably lapan K. Dose. Haroon Ahmed, Rishikesh Shaha,
Enayeiulla Khan, Henri I iphage, Augusthy Thomas, Ranabir Samaddar, Joe William, and Imtiaz
Ahmed—decided to work for the formation of a South Asia Peace Charter. The objective ofthe
initiative, according to coordinator Tapan K. Bose is to promote a South Asian perspective and
develop a South Asian 'voice' on human rights and security concerns The group hopes to
intervene where necessary and impress upon the governments ofthe region ihe need for peaceful
resolution of conflicts  The group plans lo meet in Dhaka shortly,
The South Asian Development Fund (SADF) was launched in Dhaka in mid-June, marked by
the tirst meeting ol its Governing Board, which is made up ol chief executives of development
financing institutions from the regional countries SADF's first chairman is Khariul Huda,
managing director oi the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh Mr Huda said SADF would
work to identify and develop social and inlrastructural development projects, and institutional
and human resource development projects The idea of a regional fund was first put forward by
Kingjigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan in 19°1, and the idea was endorsed at the New Delhi
SAARC summit last May The SADF has a paid-up capital of USD 5 million from member stales,
and Mr Huda is looking forward to add to this amount by approachingthe big players, ihe World
Bank and the ADB. Bangladesh is to remain SADF chairman for two years
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The Priceless Jewel
PRIpJCE GYANENDRA, brother of King
Sifendra of Nepal, has kept a low profile
since the royal family was swept off the front
pages following the people's movement of
1990, The backlash against royalty affected
most the prince and Queen Aishwarya, both
of whom had maintained an active role
during the heyday of the Panchayat system
when thie king ruled supreme
Against such a background, Prince
Gyanendra, who remains one of Nepal's
richest men and at the same time an active
prompter of nature conservation as chair-
map of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature
Conservation (KMTNCj, has been making, a
careful comeback. A recent address by the
prince eulogising King Birendra in front of
Nepal's rich and powerful at Kathmandu's
Soaltee Holiday Inn . Crowne Plaza hotel
seemed a calculated move to enter the
limelight. ■-,'"'" ■■  ■ "
Coining from normally tight-lipped royalty, the speech was significant for two mam
reasons: firstly, no one among the elected
plebeians who currently rule the kingdom
have command of the profuse and flowery
English that His Highness does; secondly,
the speech sent opt a clear political message
that the royalty- was not being appreciated.
ft Some samplings from the speech, which
was in the form of a ."felicitation address":oni
World Environment Day, 5 June':
' "As risers blend and placidly continue,
the people of Nepal always look up to the ■
monarchy -as a symbol, of honour and
unity and have reposed boundless faith in
and drawn :sust,enance. from this revered
institution..."    ' *■
.. ; "Man, at times', unlike any other spe-'
des, grows beyond his work, walks up the
stairs of his concepts and emerges ahead of :
his accomplishnients. This is. how - Yopr
Majesty's contributions in the past quarter
century—a period marked by -momentous
changes and transformations—will, be remembered in the history of Nepal..."
"Time and again. Your Majesty has re-^
.minded'us that of all the hues and colours
that go to Piake up the national spectrum,
being green is not being far-left or far-right,
but being fair-sighted..."
Prince Gyariendra ended the address
with a not-so-subtle jab at the nay-sayers-
who had brought such toil and. trouble to
the iirstitution-of monarchy: "May God grant
you peace,.and all of us, the wisdom to
appreciate the- exalted position you hold
along.with the burden of all its trappings. If
eternity is the divine treasure house, hope is -
the window through which the Nepalese
people continue to see in Your Majesty the
preservation of their unity and well-being.
'Of you, sir, may 1 say that your magnanimity
and sagacity, your ability and humility make
you a priceless jewel, the worth of which
some have yet to comprehend."
What did he mean? Who did he mean?
Janus on Kashmir
IT IS BY NOW a well-worn truism: the
governments of India and Pakistan see only
their side of the'coin when it comes to
The editors of Himal South Asia recently received a bunch of government-
produced (of at least government-sanctioned) literature on the disputed region.
One stack was from the GOl and the other
from GOP. On the table, they look exactly
alike in terms of size, production quality,
and the subjects;'they tackle. But the sub-
India's Kashmir
stance, of course, presents'the strident Delhi
position as diametrically opposed to the
equally strident Islamabad views
Amidst the claims and counter-claims,
there is wide scope for selectivity. Take the
example of the oft-referred to resolutions of
the United Nations Commission for India
■ and Pakistan (UNC1F) of 13 August 1948 and
5 January 1949. Neither side finds it necessary to lay down the full texts, although both
are quite happy to present copious excerpts
of their choosing.
The publication ofthe All Party Hurriyat
Conference from Azad Kashmir, Kashmir:
An International Issue, has part of the 5
January resolution reproduced with the following clause highlighted: "The question of
the accession of the State of
Jammu and Kashmir to
India or Pakistan will be
decided through the
democratic method
of a free and impartial plebiscite." As
if in answer, Plebiscite and Self-Determination in jammu
6" Kashmir Irrelevant Concepts, published
by the Governnient of India, states that "the
UNCIP Resolution of January 5, 1949 reiterated the requirement of meeting the provisions of the Resolution of August 13,1948.'
before any plebiscite could be considered.";
It also emphasises that "the (13 August)
resolution also called upon Pakistan to '....,;
July 1996 HIMAL South Asia
Rimpoche Jones,
Cool Dude
IP YOU THOUGHT lessons on Buddhism
came packaged in esotenc tomes or in cryptic discourses by sedate gurus, here is a
surprise A thirteen-year-old monk in Wyoming is doing it in the language he knows
best—American slang.
Pema Jones, a rimpoche born to a Ti-
betan mother and American lather, lived in
a monastery m India till the age of seven
before moving to USA. Cybersangha ("Buddhist Alternative [ournal"), in its Spring
1996 issue, had the young reincarnate speak-
ing about his hie as an Asian-American
teenager lama growing up in the heart of
America's redneck region.
On the surface, the young rimpoche is
just a regular guy who goes around in jeans,
attends school, plays baseball, hangs out
with a gang and has girlfriends. Very few
outside the circle of those "in the know"
suspect that Jones is a teacher of Buddhism
as well. He would never tell his school
chums that he is a lama. "I get dissed enough
as i! is just being Asian, he says."
Pema's lather is the one who encourages htm to continue rhe religious teachings. His mother does not really care for
religion, her intense faith having died, we
are told, after it failed to save
her people from the Chinese.
And it is just one oi those
ironies of life that young Pema
belongs to a Chinese gang
in his hometown. He
admits that "it'sstrange
to have Chinese friends
when your family has
been treated so badly
by the Chinese," but then he
says, "Some skinhead doesn't
care whether I'm Tibetan or
Chinese.   He  just  wants  to
stomp my head,"
Being a teacher is not all
that easy, confesses Pema, especially when
his students ask for a personal interview to
talk about relationships, a subject he has not
had much experience with. He has, however, lound a way out. He has worked out a
"business arrangement" with a psychologist
friend of his father's to whom he refers his
disturbed followers and who, in turn, takes
him and his brothers and sister for icecream lor every new client that is passed on
The street-savvy rimpoche has his own
views on non-violence. "Some guy just dissed
me and I tell myself that he really doesn't
exist separate from me. It's like he's dissing
himself. That works fine. Bui what happens
when he stops talking and starts beating on
me? You need to be able to take care of
s^       yourself so  you  don't  get
killed. We live in samsara and
spacing out about nirvana doesn't
helpanyone. Sometimes people just
need to he reminded that they're actually hitting themselves."
And on the Dalai Lama's precepts on non-violence: "The
Dalai Lama is an awesome old
dude and a killer teacher. But he's
got like a dozen bodyguards
around him when he's travelling.
What do you think would happen if
some bullhead pulls a gun on His
Holiness? Do you think those dozen
bodyguards will practise non-violence,
or shoot the guy in the arm or bust some
karate move on him? No way man, a bodyguard sees this dweeb with a gun and he's
gonna pop a cap in his ass."
There is something to be said lor that,
and the young rimpoche shows promise as
a teacher who says it like it is. But Pema does
not intend to spend his life solving others'
problems. He does not think it fair that
gurus have to be involved with the troubles
of their students which, he says, is one of the
reasons that many teachers die of cancer. He
has set his sights on other possibilities—
baseball! "I want to be the first Tibetan in the
major league. America can grow its own
lamas, they don't need Tibetans."
Down-to-earth wisdom, that.
secure the withdrawal irom the State of
Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein
who have entered the State for the purpose
of lighting.'" The appendix contains the 13
August resolution in toto but the 5 January
resolution is not given.
The Hurriyat Conference's response is
a booklet that has the same title but a
different subtitle. Plebiscite and Self-Determination in jammu eft Kashmir Indian Volte
Face, Historical Facts. This one begins with a
list of 14 facts, 12 of which quote Jawaharlal
Nehru to prove the "Indian volte face". Says
one, the substance of which is more or less
repeated in the others: "In his report to All
Indian Congress Committee on 6rh July,
1951 as published in The Statesman, New
Delhi on 9thJuly, 1951, Pandit Nehru said,
'Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as
a prize lor India or Pakistan. People seem to
forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for
sale or to be bartered. It has an individual
existence and its people must be the final
arbiters ol their future ..' "
It is not only over the hoary questions
of plebiscite and self-determination that the
two sides cross pens.
Last year's destruction
of Charar-e-Shanf and
who was responsible
is as much a bone of
contention. The two
titles that tell eachside
ofthe story, Of Shrines
and Blackmail (blaming the militants) and
Who Burnt Charar Shan/? (blaming the Indian army), are similar both in terms of
presentation, which is slick, and the language used, which is ponderous, incidentally, both have reproduced press reports
that appeared in the "hostile" country to
bolster their arguments.
From Of Shrines and Blackmail:
Two comments, as they appeared in the
Pakistan press, would sufhee to prove to the
hilt how Charar was article by
A,5. Yousuti in Dawn of October 10, 1995
datelined Peshwar, which derided the fact
that thejamaat-e-lslami is "consistently presenting Mast Gul before ihe people as a
'Ghazi' who risked his life and fought several battles with the Indian Army., a status
which is questionable
because many people
subscribe to the view
that it was Mast Gul and
his gun-wielding band
of indisctplined mercenaries from outside occupied  or even  Azad
Kashmir who razed Charar Sharif in their
bid to escape from a tight Indian Army
From Who Burnt Charar Sharif?:
The Froniline (June Z, 1995) emphatically
slated: "While the army went to great length
to defend itself and convince the media that
the 'militants' had set the shrine on fire,
word spread across the valley like wild fire
that it was the army that had done it to end
the two-month stand-off between the forces
and the 'militants'."
The booklet also reproduces articles
that are sceptical ofthe official Indian explanation by senior Indian columnists Kuldip
Nayar and Nikhil Chakravarty.
Obviously,on the question of Kashmir,
truth is Janus-faced.
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
But Hungry
IF HUMAN MISERY were to have a face, n
would belong either to South Asia or Sub-
Saharan Africa—the poorest regions in the
world Struggling with large populations,
low human development indicators, political violence and natural calamities, the two
have much in common.
Politically, both the regions are witnessing a shift towards democracy, but with
a difference A recent survey earned out
by The Economist on political pluralism in
Africa shows how more and more governments are being elected' in Sub-Saharan
Ofthe 42 mainland states, 30 have had
elections, four have military rulers, one
(Swaziland) is a kingdom, one a one-party
state (Eritrea) and six (Somalia, Rwanda,
Angola, Liberia, Burundi and Zaire) are
wracked by civil strife with no legitimate
Even among the 30 states where elections have been held, a number of them like
Ghana, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Guinea
have merely legitimised military rulers. Elsewhere, democracy is threatened either by
tbe military or by autocratic civilian rulers
as in Kenya, Zambia or the Cote d'lvone.
Niger was taken over by the military this
year and the general looks set to win elections. In Chad and Gambia too, the military
rulers appear destined to win the battle of
theballot. Rebels who seized powerinEihio-
pia and Uganda have retained it through
elections. Says The Economist "...most of
Africa still likes men with guns—with or
without democracy".
Contrast this situation with populous
South Asia on the other side of the Indian
Ocean, if you were to count Afghanistan
and Burma as well, all the countries in
between have democratically elected governments. While India and Sn Lanka have
been democracies right since t hey won freedom from colonial rule, Pakistan, Nepaland
Bangladesh too have now joined the ranks
of parliamentary democracies with authentic elections.
Among the tiny South Asians, Bhutan is
an absolute monarchy, and the Maldives
leans towards authoritarianism. Afghanistan is at civil war, while Burma is the only
one ruled by the military
But while South Asia has more political
freedom, there are more people who go
hungry here than in Afnca. What's even
more shocking, according to
the UN1CEF Progress oj Nations
report released last month, is
that the proportion of undernourished children is higher in
South Asia.
While 32 percent of the
children in Sub-Saharan Africa
are chronically hungry—ihe
figure for South Asia is 51 percent. Why this difference7
UNICEF's experts say they are
not sure, but a major factor
seems to be the low status of ftftft
women not only in society, but
also within the family. South Asian women
are forced to give a higher priority to
their husbands and in-laws, while the
children come second, the study says.
African mothers, on the other hand, give
The 10-year track record
% oi children underweight by region, 1 985-1995
The possible ccuseo oi Sou'h Asia's Mqh
malnutrition rale ore discussed in 'The Asian
Enigma', pages 1017
30 I
priority to their children.
South Asia does have mure freedom
and democracy, but is that anything to crow
about given the fact that it cannot even feed
its own people?
Who won in Bangladesh?
^    Mi
m  «-
ft       !L3
6    V
There were 138
symbols available
to the 81 political
parties which
contested the 12
June elections in
Bangladesh. The
voter turnout
among the 57
million voters for
300 constituencies
was 73 percent. The
election results may
have been determined by the large
turnout of women
voters, who were
brought out in
force by NGOs.
However, the
candidates were
still overwhelmingly male—only 36
of the 2574
candidates were
The boat symbol of
the Awami League
(first column, 16
down) got to form
the government.
The sheaf of grain
ofthe Bangladesh
Nationalist Party
(sixth column, 13
down) is the main
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
 Jigaie Dor]
National Pe
A Bhutan-Assam
Corridor For Wildlife
SOUTH ASIA'S WILDLIFE biologists have
always argued for the creation or main-Left
nance of 'corridors' which link one nature
reserve with another. It makes perfect sense
.for plant and animal species to be linked
across a spectrum ol climatic zones. With
the possible advent of global warming, and
the need for ecosystems to shift from one
zone to another, the importance of such
corridors has heightened.
While the maintenance or creation of
wildlife corridors within a country is hard
enough, it is something that is much harder do across-international boundaries. Under such circumstances, it is welcome news
thatBhutan and the state government of the
Indian state of Assam have moved to create
a wildlife corn dor that links up the Black
Mountains ofthe former with the Manas
National Park of the latter.
- The eastern Himalaya is one of the
conservation' "hot spots" ofthe world where
areas of high biological diversity are being
subjected to widespread habitat destruction.1. And now, the effect of global climate
change which predicts wetter monsoons
and drier winters in. South Asia is adding,
to the dilemma of the protected areas
- that are., increasingly being
: THERE ARE TWO good examples
of transfrontier conservation prac-
, dee in Nepal. The Qomolungma
'Reserve reaches out'from "Tibet'
into the Sagarmatha National Park
. and the adjoining Makalu Barun,,
: Conservation Area in the Everest
■: Region .and in a similar manner
the Kattamia Ghat Sanctuary in;.
"India- and the Bardrya National-
- Park in;Southwest Nepal are one.
■and the same jungle.
There is one forest tract, in.,
central Nepalknown as theTikauli'
Corridor which links the
Mahabharat range to the jungles
of Chitwan in the south. This narrow-stretch, a remnant of a much
'wider swath of forest cover that
draped Chitwan just a few decades ago, is being strangulated
by human encroachment. Con-
. serving this corridor within Nepal
'seems urgent.
Wildlife Sanctuary
Martf jMfttr
encroaching development.:"
•Research from elsewhere shows that
biotic communities react to climate change
by moving to more favourable locations, but
this will prove difficult in the eastern
Himalayabecause; the region has small biotic communities-that are widely spaced
from each other". This means that the ability
of a species to shift toward better habitats
during climate change is hindered because
human landuse comes in the way.
All the more need in the Eastern
Himalaya, therefore, for wide corridors to
connect isolated wildlife preserves, and for
transfrontier conservation programmes to
help plants and animals cope with the change
m climate.      -
The Black Mountains reserve, in, the
form of a mountainous backbone in central
Bhutan, is a 1400 .sq km home -to a wide
range oLbroadleaf; forests, conifers and alpine pastures. This mountain region is linked
to the slightly smaller Royal Manas National
Park in southern Bhutan, which in turn
spills into the 500 sq kms of the Manas
National Park of Assam further south. The
latter is part of the larger Manas Tiger Reserve (2837 sq km), prime habitat also ofthe
Asian one-homed rhinoceros. What we
have, thus, is nearly 5000 sq km of contiguous wildlife habitat that encompasses a
north-south topographical range from
the tropical region known as the duars to
perennial snow,
Determiningwhat will happen to living
species in the Himalaya as a result of climate
change is a task fraught with complexity
because of the many unknown variables.
But as habitat fragmentation and global
climate change threaten biodiversity, the
creation of wildlife corridors which link
historically connected natural areas to facilitate, movement of living species, is perhaps the best strategy planners can opt 1
for today.
-Pralcul Yonzon
Hill man's Rest
Trust the scientific-minded Nepali highlander to come up with the perfect use for the Tripod
Principle/Walking down the main street of Tansen town, photographer Min Bajracharya
came across this common-enough sight. He circled the subject and clicked from all angles to
show the scieiitism of the method. The trick seemsto be: slouch on your two legs, and lean
back on a sturdy stick. Provided you have the angle right, the stick will take just the right
amount of load which, minus the effort used up by the tWo legs, is the energy saved.
H1NIAL South Asia  lulv   1596
Druk Yul, the Kingdom of Bhutan, is
within striking distance of what all
South Asian countries want-
development. But now it has an
unsettling refugee problem on its
by A.C. Sinha
The Ethnic Statement
on Bhutan
Who Will Upset
Whose Applecart?
Less than a decade ago, Bhutan, the last lamaist
Buddhist monarchy in the Himalayas, was considered the ideal locale in which the Sri Lankan
government and rebel Tamil militants might negotiate a
solution to their violent ethnic conflict. Within a couple
of years, however, Bhutan itself had turned into another
theatre of ethnic strife, this one pitting the dominant
Buddhist communities in northern Bhutan against an
immigrant Nepali Hindu community in the southern
third of the kingdom. The situation quickly became a
stalemate, and for the past five years it has remained the
most significant political issue in the country, although it
tends to be treated as a problem of law and order.
If one.reads the proceedings of Bhutan's Tshongdu
(National Assembly) and speeches by its members, one
rarely finds a forward-looking statement that rises above
populism and xenophobia. Nor has there been an honest
effort to identify issues affecting the body politic. How
ever, the Tshongdu is handicapped as a forum for dissenting voices, and structural reforms in the style of representation are badly needed. Visitors to Bhutan are told that
political reforms are on King Jigme Singye Wangchuck's
agenda but that he is unsure about the timing of their
introduction and his subjects' response.
The Tshongdu and most of the national fora are
located in Thimphu, the capital. District development
councils continue to operate out of district headquarters,
but under the benign gaze ofthe bureaucracy, and village
groups appear to suffer from "development fatigue". But,
in what seems to be a step in the right direction, villages
have been grouped into blocks (geong) for developmental
purposes, and it is said that the most important recent
development has been 'democratisatiori at the block and
village levels. This means that villagers and the gups and
mandals (heads of village councils) are now deciding their
development prio rities without the dzongda (district com-
July  1996  HIMAL South Asia
missioner). It has reached the point, according to reports,
where bureaucrats are now resigning their posts and
contesting elections to the Tshongdu. Southern Bhutan,
however, is totally paralysed structurally, and development priorities have been adversely affected, if not shelved.
In 1994-95, the Bhutanese government netted revenue worth Nu 1,686 million. That was a mere 1.7
percent short of the expenditure that year. Electricity,
trade and tourism contributed two-thirds of the total
revenue and were the most paying sectors in descending
order. The top six dzongkhangs (districts) in order of
revenue were Chukha, Thimphu, Samtse (Samche),
Samdrukjongkhar, Paro and Sarpang (Sarbhang), which
contributed 96 percent ofthe income. It is instructive that
four of these districts are in southern Bhutan, a predominantly Nepali-speaking (or Lhotshampa, meaning
southerners) territory. The rest of the 14 districts in the
northern and interior areas provided a mere 3 percent to
the exchequer, and required a higher rate of investment
ind expenditure.
Despite the overall rosy picture, the finance minister
is candid in acknowledging that there are dark clouds
hovering over the national economy. While project and
programme implementation has been satisfactory, development activity—particularly in the southern districts—
has been hampered by frequent riots and what are said to
be acts of militancy by Lhotshampa dissidents. Similarly,
progress in trade and industry continued to be disrupted,
as all major commercial and industrial centres are located
in southern Bhutan. The government has had to engage a
large number of secunty personnel to protect industries,
service facilities and forests, as well as people's lives.
The controversial claim that Bhutan has only about
600,000bonefidesubjectshashelpedthecountryachi eve
another miracle. The Human Development Report issued
by UNDP lists Bhutan among the least developed countries. But by adjusting the claimed population figure, per
capita income, literacy and life expectancy, Bhutan's
ranking went up from 162 to somewhere around 130.
Bhutan, however, is one of the few countries in which
statistics do tell lies. And the reality is that the social
development undertaken is far more significant than the
achievement rates indicate.
Closing Ranks
By tradition, Bhutan is a Buddhist monarchy in which the
Drukpa community has been ethnically dominant; it is
also a country in which predominantly Hindu Nepali-
speaking immigrants have been living for nearly a century
as subsistence farmers in the southern foothills. In other
words, this Lamaist kingdom has a sizeable immigrant
population strategically located in a frontier zone over
which the centre may not have complete control. The
land-hungry Lhotshampa farmers have actively contributed to the economic development of Bhutan, turning the
"negative" southern area into a vibrant zone of prosperity.
Many of them were educated and sent abroad on scholarships, after which they returned to fill responsible government posts. They took advantage of the state policy of
ethnic assimilation in which cash grants of Nu 5,000, later
increased to Nu 10,000, were given by the government to
encourage inter-ethnic marriages. This provision stands
withdrawn now.
But when the Drukpa establishment saw a threat to
the monarchy, the religion and the laws of Bhutan, it
required the Lhotshampa to accept the national traditions
and be incorporated into the system. This resulted in an
ethnic flare-up leading to the flight of thousands of the
HIMAL South Asia July  1996
At Bhutan's
stage of
makers in
Bhutan feel
concepts of
culture, and
standards of
rights could
pose a
Nepali-speakers lo refugee camps in Nepal, including
many who left government positions
The argument goes on about the future return ol the
Lhotshampas. What face will returnees show to those left
behind in the camps and to those who did not leave
Bhutan in the first place' Will the government rely on
them again to fill responsible posts7 Will the Lhotshampa
in Bhutan, who have been suhjected to violence by ihe
dissidents, accept them again? And can those who left the
country willingly—sometimes against the pleas ol state
functionaries—even be termed refugees?
In the face ol a worldwide uproar in favour ol the
refugees, the Bhutanese establishment, Irom King Jigme
to the least significant functionary, closed ranks and made
a concerted effort to counteract what they claimed was
Nepalese disinformation. Cabinet ministers, High Court
judges, articulate members ol the Tshongdu, senior bureaucrats, and above all, the king himself, worked aggressively to explain their point ol view. They prepared
reports and statistics, sent delegations to various lora
where the refugee issue was debated; invited scholars,
journalists, jurists, and concerned opinion leaders to
Bhutan; welcomed representatives of UNHCR, the relugee
agency, as well as dignitaries from the United States, India
and other countnes; and engaged in talks with His
Majesty's Government of Nepal to try to resolve the
The effort has paid off. The Bhutanese have successfully portrayed themselves as victims ol a Nepali conspiracy, as people who had nothing to hide and whose
only objective was sell-preservation. The diplomatic offensive mounted by the small Bhutanese establishment
has been so effective that despite the uproar, the refugees
have been left with no significant support voice in
world lora.
Withdrawal Syndrome
Bhutanese policy makers do not hide their rejection of
some Western ideological and cultural concepts. At
Bhutan's stage of national development, they feel, Western concepts of representative democracy, competitive
party systems, consumer culture, and standards of human rights, as well as activities of NGOs (church-sponsored or otherwise) could pose a serious threat. They say
that the economic growth required lor tbe welfare ol the
population needs political stability, and they fear religious plurality will go against the gram of age-old Bhutanese
traditions in which life revolves around the institution of
religion. Such ideological underpinnings have resulted in
a kind ol withdrawal syndrome.
The Bhutanese, who have developed a sense of
confidence in their ability to handle the ethnic conflict in
their own way, believe the talks with Nepal (seven in all,
with Kathmandu governments of all hues) have deflated
the issue. Once the talks were underway, it became a
game of numbers. The Bhutanese accept that some of the
refugees will return to Bhutan, but many of them
will remain in Nepal, some may opt lor India, although
India is not officially involved in the negotiations
Bhutanese officials hasten to add, however, that those
who do return are certain to lace social, economic,
cultural, and even administrative problems. They are also
worried  about  the  role  of the  international  NGOs
that have been active m the relugee camps
In Thimphu's perspective, the refugees in the Jhapa
camps are deserters, and not the victims ol any state-
organised eviction. In support of this view, officials cite an
account of the departure of Lhotshampas Irom Dorokha
block in Samchi district in April 1944 on the eve ol the
third round of Bhutan-Nepal negotiations. After 44 families (269 members' had filed papers to leave Bhutan,
officials advised them not to leave and reminded them
that under Bhutanese laws I hey would lose their citizenship if they emigrated.
The king issued an edict (.sasho) to the dzongda
instructing them to "meet with all the families who have-
to emigrate, and do your utmost to persuade them not to
leave the country". Those who withdrew their applications and returned to their villages would be exempt from
all rural taxes for three years just five families and two
individuals decided to stay back in Bhutan and the rest left
for the Jhapa camps. Unlike in the past, most ol them were
Brahmins by caste. It is an odd experience to watch an
180-minute-long videocassette prepared by the government which shows a persuasive state establishment,
represented by the Samchi dzongda and superintendent
of police, on the one hand and the impassive but determined heads ofthe households from Dorakha Block.
Those Who Stayed
It seems that dissident violence has continued against the
loyal Lhotshampas, especially those with official status. In
some ofthe villages, these officials cannot spend nights in
their own homes. In the first half of 199 S, in Sarpang
district alone, dissidents are said to have committed as
many as 440 crimes against Lhotshampa—murder, kidnapping, rape, assault, and damage to property.
One can see barren, overgrown paddy fields, deserted villages, and crumbling houses all over southern
Bhutan. While they do fear the violence from former
neighbours now in the refugee camps, the loyal
Lhotshampa are losing laith in the Bhutanese system as
well. Although the king, ihe royal family, and a number
of higher officials have been sympathetic to the Lhotshampa
who have stayed, many Drukpas do not hide their pleasure at the plight ol the Nepalis who remain hehmd.
From the two southern districts oi Samchi and
Sarpang, with an estimated population of 4S.O0O and
SO,000 respectively land less than ten percent Drukpa
inhabitants'), as many as 40,000 Nepalese have fled to the
refugee camps. These refugees were more Irom the newer
villages than from the larger and older settlements.
The village of Taklai in Sarpang is today totally
deserted. The inhabitants have moved en masse to the
refugee camps or elsewhere because the living conditions
became difficult or because the overall atmosphere became too intimidating, it did not matter that this area had
one of the most developed small irrigation projects in the
southern Duars. The Lhotshampa abandoned their properties and rushed to the camps, obviously in the hope
that quickly enough they would come to Bhutan on their
own terms
Once they left, even if temporanly, households were
looted—of roofing sheets, tiles, doors, windows, wooden
beams and frames—by thieves, bullies, businessmen or
unscrupulous officials. All over these southern districts,
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
one can see long stretches of fields unattended for some-
seasons side by side with patches of well-cultivated
paddies and orchards The economy of southern Bhutan
is completely stagnant
Naturally, Kingjigme is under heavy pressure to allot
the fallow land to his loyal Lhotshampa -or to the more-
than-loyal Drukpa. There is another powerlul lobby
which seeks to cash in on the current international
environmental emphasis by convening these agni ultural
lands, developed by the sweat of generations of
Lhotshampa, back to the original jungle This is noi
something that, will be hard to do in ihe tropical sub-
Himalayan terrain, where regeneration is swift li is to
King Jigmeft credit that these deserted lands have not
been usurped by aggressive lobbyists of any kind. However, this also leads to speculation that the Drukpa
establishment at the highest levels expects some ol the
refugees to return to Bhutan.
Those left behind in the villages, often Irom lamilies
which are now divided, are living under a sense ol panic,
tear, uncertainty and continuous harassment. The officials iire invariably cold to them; ihe lugitivc relatives are
hostile; and they are seared to even venture out to the
fields because of fear of attacks. Worst of all, many of them
are considered spies by both sides—the Drukpa establishment as well as the relugees They cannot even be
hue das labourers, because ihe contractors prefer to bring
in cheap and pliant workers Irom India (and Bangladesh)
The economy is paralysed, so far as the Lhotshampa ol
southern Bhutan are concerned.
No Meeting Ground
For the Bhutanese authorities, the ethnic conflict represents a problem ol law and order, and led to themselves,
they would handle it in their own way In the viewpoint
: those who have left, ihe real issues lacing the kingdom
are not illegal immigration, anti-national activity, or
terrorism as claimed by the government, but rather ihe
establishment of political pluralism, democracy, and pro-
lection for human rights. The two sides are as far apart as
it is possible to be in their perception
The Thimphu view is that the Lhotshampas have
abused the royal trust reposed in them. The Lhotshampa
know that Druk Yuf was a Drukpa country, with its own
king, court, language, religion and laws. The immigrants
must accept the national traditions and make an eflort to
be a part of this Bhutan Once lliey do no! accept ihe
system and withdraw Irom it, they cease to have any claim
for Bhutanese indulgence. Interestingly, there are a considerable number ol articulate senior bureaucrats, not
necessarily ot Drukpa extraction, who hold such views
The Lhotshampa having showed their hand, an aggressive policy ol Bhulamsation is now being pursued This
may be seen in the disconlinuat ion of Nepali and Sanskrit
teaching in the schools, cancellation o( cash incentives for
inter-ethnic marriages, and ihe changing of the Nepali
placenames back into Dzongkha: Samchi—Samise,
Sarbhang—Sarpang, etc.
Meanwhile the leaders oi the refugees in the camps
show signs of desperation. Nothing is going in their
favour. The international support base for their cause is
shrinking. They appear lo be far from happy with the
patronage they received Irom I heir elhmc brethren, i.e.
the Nepalis ol Nepal and their government They are also
terribly upset with the coldness with which the world lora
have received their appeals. The)- are- equally puzzled and
distraught at the lack of response Irom the Indian media
and political system. Despite their proverbial factionalism
and inability to arrive at consensus among themselves,
the relugee leaders have tried to do what is possible and
logical; 10 educate the world and Indian public on
their plight
On the diplomatic front, the Bhutanese continue
their aggressive and sophisticated lobbying The refugees
have had successes in get ting media coverage in India, but
the fact that they are divided into a dozen advocacy
grotips and political panics considerably weakens
their clout As iar as the government o! Nepal is concerned, the collapse oi one government alter another
has meant changing faces and lack of continuity m the
delegations which have mei the Bhutanese side over the
relugee issue
The latest round ol Nepal-Bhutan talks, in April,
were led by the foreign ministers ol each side, whereas all
the earlier rounds were held at the home minister level
Meanwhile, the Indian authorities remain dismissive about
the possibility of a role in resolving the conflict
Political Ferment
The continuing diplomatic deadlock has given birth lo
some movements in the Sultry camps in southeast Nepal.
Their patience having stretched to the limit, the refugees
have started to become restive Despite continuing factionalism among their ranks, they have managed to
cultivate a section of Indian human nghts and democrat ic
movement protagonists, Addil tonally, they have appealed
to the sensibility ol their ethnic Nepali-speaking cousins
in Sikkim and in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts ol
West Bengal. When the refugees fled Bhutan, they came
by way oft his region, known as the Duars, and I hey hope-
that the Indian Nepalis of this region will help laciliiate
the reverse journey to the Dragon Kingdom.
The- political churning among the relugees has led to
formation ol two new groups, in addition to the political
parties and human rights groups that already exist. These
arc the Bhutanese Coalition for Democratic Movement
QiCDMi, a political forum, and the Appeal Movement
Coordination Councilo.amc'.o, a human rights action
group. Alter holding rallies and press conferences in
Kathmandu, Delhi, Calcutta, Siliguri and elsewhere,
they decided to march Irom their cainjjs in Nepal
to Bhutan across Indian territory to petition the
Bhutanese king.
The til DM is an umbrella organisation ot political
parties, youth lora and student organisations demanding
drastic democratic changes in the body politic of Bhutan.
The AMCC", has appealed to the King for restoration ol
democratic rights and an early repatriation of the relugees, failing which they propose to file cases against the
Royal Bhutan Government in Bhutanese courts Apparently, while the formerviewsihe
refugees as originating from a political crisis leading to
arbitrary deprivation of subjeclhood, the latter regards
the issue as basically that ol the violation ol human rights
Since lamiary, the relugees have been staging demon si rat eons on the borders ol Nepal and India at Kakarvilia
They hope
that the
Nepalis of
this region
will help
the reverse
journey to
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
across the Mechi river with their ethnic supporters from
India and Nepal. The district administrations of Darjeeling
and jalpaiguri have declared their assembly and march to
Bhutan illegal and imposed prohibitory orders. This has
forced the refugees to squat on the borders and court
arrest. Close to two thousand people have been arrested
and sent to jail. The in-custody death, in June, of one of
the detainees gave the marchers cause for demonstrating
against Indian authorities. At the same time, support from
ethnic Nepalis is becoming more evident with a five-day
strike having been called in late June in Darjeeling.
Cutting across political affiliations, the Congress,
CPM, Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and other political
parties from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri have expressed
solidanty with these stateless persons. The state government of West Bengal, which bears the brunt ofthe refugee
march to Bhutan, has approached New Delhi for more
forces immediately. It has also demanded that the central
leadership find a resolution to this political problem, as it
is not an internal problem of the state.
Meanwhile, Kingjigme, in a state visit to New Delhi
in March, sought to underscore the mutual interests that
held India and Bhutan together. The Indian Home Ministry approached Bhutan to initiate an extradition treaty
to handle the Bodo insurgents, who use the Bhutanese
jungles for sanctuary. Economic ties were further
strengthened with the signing of agreements on the
Tala hydro-electric project and the Dungsum cement
plant. And, no one has missed Bhutan's enthusiastic
espousal of India's candidature to the United Nations
Security Council,
Even as the refugees take the pitch of their agitation
higher, the Thimphu government's approach seems to be
to ignore the refugees altogether, and go above their heads
to concentrate on deepening ties with New Delhi.
In Shavian tradition, when there is a conflict between
the monarch and popularly elected ministers, the monarch wins handsomely every time when personal ability
and good sense are all equally divided, thus, upsetting the
populist applecart. The wise king defeats the pompous,
vain and arrogant populists. In the case of Druk Yul, who,
indeed, will upset whose applecart, the Bhutanese royalists or the populist Lhotsamphas? The answer is anybody's
guess, as the Bhutanese diplomatic offensive continues
while the refugee activism in the Duars seems to gather
steam. A
A.C. Sinha is professor of anthropology at the North Eastern
Hill University and author of several books on the Indian
Northeast, including Bhutan: Ethnic Identity and National
.   :.„ ...
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Robert Fleming, Sr with Lain Singh Bangdel (glasses)
standing behind (I to r) Hira Lai Dangol, Robert Fleming,
jrand HemPoudyal.
The Birds of Nepal,
and a Book
Bird watching is trying to gain wing in Nepal,
spurred by a unique manual prepared by an
American fatherland-son team.
by Deepak Thapa
Nepalis are not known to be great book
readers to begin with, and due to
the neglect of English education, publications in English receive scantier attention.
So it is a wonder that a book on birds
written in English commands a high premium in Kathmandu's handful of English
Birds of Nepal, written by the father-son
duo Robert L. Fleming, Sr & Jr, has been
sold out for five years, and the stray copy
that surfaces now and then is snapped up
by bird enthusiasts for up to USD 250
(NPR 15,000), much over the cover price
of NPR 250.
The book by the American authors also
has the distinction of introducing the ornithology of Nepal to the world, and getting
the Nepalis themselves interested in
the birdlife which is so abundant in their
Senior and Junior
The story behind Birds of Nepal goes all the
way back to 1928, when Robert Fleming Sr
moved from his native state of Michigan,
USA, to Mussoorie, India, to teach at the
well-known Woodstock School. It was in
Mussoorie that he met his wife Bethel, a
medical doctor. Duringvacations, the couple
would take off for isolated corners of the
Indian Himalaya to do what the family
enjoyed most—bird watching.
Mr Fleming Jr, who joined in on those
forays when he was old enough and is today
a well-known wildlife expert who leads
nature tours in Asia and Africa, says his
father had a great love for beauty in nature-
He remembers his father trying to inculcate
a similar appreciation by carrying him up to
a flower and enunciating "pretty", going
to another flower repeating "pretty", and
so on.
During the course of their 25 years in
Mussoorie, the Flemings used to receive
many bird enthusiasts at home, including
the grand old man of Indian ornithology,
Salim Ali. It was during one of Mr All's visits
that a young Mr Fleming Jr, got a chance to
impress him. Hoping that Mr Ali would be
able to identify a bird he had shot at 3310 m
m the Dodi Tal area of Garhwal, he brought
out the specimen. Mr Ali promptly identified the bird as Gould's Shortwing
(Brachypteryx stellata), but was suitably surprised to know that it was found so far west,
whereas he had once led an unsuccessful
expedition in its search in Sikkim, almost
1200 kilometres to the east.
One Tenth of Birdkind
Nepal had long beckoned to the Flemings,
for it was terra incognita as far as ornithology
was concerned. It was next to impossible to
HIMAL South Asia July   1996
 Arts & Society
visit Rana-ruled Nepal in those days, so Mr
Fleming Sr used some influence he had with
the American embassy in Delhi to gain entry His first foray was up along the Kali
Gandaki valley in Central Nepal, a birdwatcher's paradise, then almost untrodden
hy Westerners. Mr Fleming came back, with
family, in 1951 and 1952
As a missionary couple, the two were
drawn to the idea of helping improve and
develop Nepal's almost non-existent educational and medical facilities. In 19*53, the
family moved to Nepal as part of a team to
establish the United Mission to Nepal, an
interdenominational Christian help group.
Once resident in the country, the
Flemings were to lind enough variety of
birds to match their passion, As they write in
the introduction to Birds of Nepal. "There arc
few places in the world where snowy-white
egrets perch in front ol giant peaks, both
turning pink in the setting sun. And very
few places where one can observe birds at
8235 metres and still be on the ground "
A tenth of all known birds of the world
can he found in Nepal It is not only the
altitudinal difference that makes the country so bountiful in bird species, Ne pal is also
unique lor its geographical positioning in
Asia. Zoo-geographically, it lies at the centre
ol the continent, providing habitats that
sum up the range of Asia's climates, from the
hot and humid rainforests of Indochina to
the cold, dry deserts ol Central Asia.
Ornithological Delight
By 1968, the data on Nepal's hirds the
Flemings had collected was voluminous
enough to make a book. But a publication
on birds is useless without accompanying
visuals, and so they solicited the help of
eminent Nepali artist Lain Singh Bangdel.
Under Mr Bangdel's supervision, two young
artists, Hem Poudyal and Hira Lai Dangol,
set to work on the illustrations.
Having the material ready was one thing,
but linding a publisher quite another. There
were numerous rejections from publishers
who thought such a book would never sell.
I n the end, the family decided to sell-finance
the book, "more a labour oi love than a
commercial venture," recalls Fleming Jr
His father sold off his grand piano to make
the payments, saying he could do with a
smaller one
It was 1976 before the book finally
came out and quickly made its mark as a
classic. It went in quickly for two editions,
1979 and 1983. Besides being very informative, the book was also a visual delight with
the line paintings ol Mr Poudyal and Mr
Dangol to illustrate the text. Apparently,
this was only the third book of its kind
MjCw  Southwest Tarai
Southeast Tarai
Mai Valley
Rara-Ringmo Finger
Trans- Himalayan
A A | High I limalaya
Map of Nepal indicating areas
important in bird geography
published anywhere that had texi and pictures on facing pages which makes it very
user-friendly in the field {the other two were
The Birds of Britain and Europe with North
Africa and the Middle East and A Guide to
Field Identification: Birds of North America).
Mr Fleming Sr was to live in Nepal until
1979, by which time Birds of Nepal had
succeeded in imprinting Nepal firmly on
the minds of enthusiasts all over, whether
bird watchers, 'bird banders', or ornithologists. "We have to be grateful to the Flemings
because their book not only publicised Nepal
as a treasure house of bird species but it also
spurred interest in bird-watching among
Nepalis," says Kama Sakya, co-founder oi
the Kathmandu-based Bird Watching Club.
Valley Naturalists
Bird-watching has not as yet caught up as a
popular national pastime in Nepal. The
required conditions for the hobhy—affluence, leisure, and awareness—are still not
there to the extent required. However, one
increasingly finds excursion groups with a
copy of Birds of Nepal on hand negotiating
some of the thick woodlands on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Villagers of Nepal are, ol course, natural birdwatchers Says Mr Fleming jr, "The
city dwellers will be able to recognise crows
and sparrows, whereas outside the city 1
only have to open the book and people
instantly point out the birds they know. But
their interest is only poetic It is only when
one makes a deliberate attempt to see different birds, seeks them out and makes a study
of them, that one becomes a true birdwatcher. 1 am glad our book has been able
lead Nepalis in that direction."
At present, there are at least two groups
actively watchingbirds. There is one formed
by the naturalists and guides working in and
around the Royal Chitwan National Park,
and there is the Bird Watching Club. Now-
called Bird Conservation Nepal, the latter
has remained active since its inception in
1982, under the steady stewardship of the
country's leading ornithologist, HariSharan
Nepali. "Over the years, more than 200
people have drifted in and out ol the club
but we have a core group of dedicated bird
watchers," says Mr Nepali,
The club's activities are mostly centred
in and around the Kathmandu Vallley, but
the valley provides an abundant variety of
birds so there is never a dull moment. The
Flemings once had a bird count competition going with a friend in Sn Lanka who
had the whole island to find his birds while
they restricted themselves to the valley.
"The tally ran neck-to-neck all the lime,"
recalls Mr Flemingjr.
Mr Sakya is pleased that many ol the
youngsters who had joined the club have
gone on to become naturalists and
wildlife experts. He believes that as a
birdwatcher's paradise, Nepal should be
able to lake economic advantage by hosting
the hundreds ol thousands oi bud enthusiasts the world over. (.Mr Sakya is also a
successful hotelier, j
That indeed is what Mr Flemingjr does
when he is not leading nature tours elsewhere—he bri ngs tou r grou ps ol bird watchers to Nepal, For ihe next six months, however, he will not be travelling. He will be
home, preparing the lourth edition of Birds
of Nepal for press, and there is a lot of work
up ahead. For, while the first edition listed
787 bird species, with new sightings, the
number is now more than 830. Mr Fleming
Jr will have lo do il all alone this lime, his
father having died in 1987 ft
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
Dead on Arrival
testing limes j
he Clolial Stake in:
a Nuclear! est Ban
Testing Times:
The Global Stake in a Nuclear
Test Ban
by Prafu! Bidwai and Atliin Vanairo
Drrg tiaminarshjold foundation
Uppsala, Sweden, 1996
71 pages, J5BN 9!-8J>2l4-2i-X
bv T.T. Paulose
India might find ego-gratification by emerging
as a nuclear power, but it will have to contend
with the image of'rogue' state.
The end ofthe cold warbrightened hopes
lor the emergence of a nuclear weap-
ons-lree world But the presence of some
20,000 nuclear warheads and their sophisticated deliver)' systems with the nuclear
weapons states (NWS) on the one hand, and
the activities ofthe threshold nuclear powers on the other, have ensured that it remains a difficult proposition. The initialling
ol a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
,C.TBT) by the end ol this year was supposed
to have been an important step in this
In Testing Times: The Global Stake in a
Nuclear Test Ban, journalist-researchers
Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik write: "The
completion of a truly comprehensive, universal, non-discnminalory zero-yield, and
verifiable treaty to prohibit testing (so necessary for qualitative improvement of nuclear
weapons) would provide a logical way out
ol the nuclear impasse that has lasted half a
But the 28 June deadline for wrapping
up the draft of a CTBT has come and gone
without any accord. On 20 June, the newly
elected United Front government in New
Delhi announced it would not sign the CTBT
unless the NWS—China, France, Russia,
United Kingdom and United States—agreed
to disarm within a given time frame. It also
announced the withdrawal of all facilities
for seismic verification from the purview of
the International Monitoring System (IMS).
However, India would continue to sit in on
negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Ccneva, it said
Pakistan promptly announced that the
treaty would he "dead on arrival" if any of
the eight nuclear-capable powers declined
to sign. Simultaneously, China expressed its
reservations, saying the clause on peaceful
nuclear explosions (PNH; should be revised
after 10 years. Russia, China, France, Pakistan and UK were ol the view ihat India,
Pakistan and Israel should ratify ihe treaty
lor its entry into force. Russia, China and
India expressed reservations on ihe mailer
oi "on-site inspection" and the US position
on National Technical Means ol Verification.
Negotiations collapsed and a revised
version oi the draft was presented lo the
delegations at ihe CD to lake back with
them and study before talks resume on
29 July.
The well-argued monograph by Mr
Bidwai and Mr Vanaik was conceived as an
intervention m the negotiations and the
public debaie on the CI Hi Supported by the
Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, the study,
in the words ol the authors, "attempts to
assess the mam areas ol dispuie between
potential signatories and possible Firms
of their resolution, and to point to the
larger political value of establishing a good
CTBT, something that is now within
our reach "
The study thus retains its topicality and
is significant in that it is ihe first publication
of its kind, and all the more significant as it
comes from India, a country that has a
critical role in the CTBT process. It follows on
the book-length study Nuclear Weapon
Tests Prohibition or Limitation? (1988)
edited by Josef Goldblat and David Cox,
and two monographs on the CTBT by
Eric Arnett.
The authors ol Testing Times maintain
that theirs is an attempt to familiarise readers from the global South, and especially
India, with the international debaie on disarmament and to acquaint the international
reader with the debate in India on the
issue. The objectivity ofthe concise, meticulously researched and readable text is in
sharp contrast to the selective analyses and
biased research on the same theme by some
well-known writers ot India on nuclear
issues, who so strongly advocate that
the country withdraw Irom the CTBT
The authors make no secret of their
own stance on whether India should go
nuclear. It should not. Alter devoting a
section to the analysis ol the Indian position
and mapping out the options available to
the country, Mr Bidwai and Mr Vanaik are of
the opinion that India should initial the
treaty at the earliest.
They write: "The ongoing talks on the
CTB [represent an encroaching'Day ofjudge-
ment' for New Delhi. It is to be hoped that
it will wisely choose the path of nuclear
sanity and work lor and be part of a consensus ctbt that is now close within the world's
They warn: "If the world yet again fails
to complete the CTBT in the near future, the
impact will be to strengthen hawkish lobbies in the governments of both the NWS
and threshold states. This will end hopes for
a fissile material production ban (Fissban)
and even jeopardise existing arms control
agreements including START-11 and the Anti-
Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty."
Hidden Agenda
The authors point out India wants to be seen
as seeking the moral high ground reflecting
its seriousness about advancing the cause of
nuclear disarmament. However, they write,
New Delhi is resisting signing mainly because it will limit or narrow its nuclear
option. While refusing to sign theCTBTinitS
present form, India, nudged by its power
elites, may be seeking an escape route to a
HIMAL South Asia  July  1996
 Arts & Society
belated nuclear weapons programme. This
hidden agenda which goaded India to act as
a 'spoiler' at the CD negotiations in Geneva
is now becoming apparent even as some
higher-ups in the defence services openly
advocate that India exercise its nuclear
In effect, the situation is fast approaching the one described by the authors in the
monograph. They say the US and Russia
may now go forward with the Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty (START) process,
enlarging its scope to eventually include the
other nws, while India could take a retrogressive step by emerging as a new NWS and
ending up as a 'rogue' nation.
The book provides valuable insights
into the global stakes in a test ban, the
vacillating stand of the NWS on the CTBT, the
probable holdouts (Russia and China) and
the potential spoilers (India). The writing is
simple, lucid and to the point. Seven boxes
within the monograph elucidate the basic
tenets essential for understanding the political and technical complexities of the CTBT.
Under a separate head, a brief history of the
CTBT talks since 1954 is included.
The book unabashedly advocates the
CTBT and its stated objectives of banning all
attempts by the nws to further refine or
modernise their arsenal and to cap any
further weapons development by the threshold states. It acknowledges that the treaty is
limited and that not a single nuclear warhead from the existing stockpile will be
destroyed because of it. Nevertheless, the
authors believe that the instrument will be
an important step forward for nuclear disarmament.
They write, "In all probability, if a CTBT
is not completed and signed this year, that
will also weaken the credibility of the multilateral process of arms control negotiations and devalue the CD as a forum. The
world may have to say goodbye to nuclear
disarmament for a long time to come."
The monograph -wall have to go through
a quick revision and be updated as well if it
is to retain its relevance, as it was written
before elections in either India or Russia and
before the 28 June deadline was crossed.
Although it deals with India's security concerns as an aspect of the domestic debate on
the CTBT, the authors do not do justice to
the extent of concern which exists in New
Delhi about the external security environment. This, after all, is what makes analysts
and policy -makers come o ut vociferously in
favour of exercising the nuclear option.
T.T. Paulose is a Delhi-based scholar who
follows the nuclear issue.
Man of Comparative
When anthropologist Richard Burghart
passed away in January 1994 at the
age of 49, he left behind several incomplete
and unpublished research reports and a
huge corpus of published writings. An
American by birth, Mr Burghart finished his
college in western Massachusetts and went
on to complete a doctoral dissertation entitled The History of janakpurdham: A Study
in Asceticism and the Hindu Polity in 1978 at
London's School of Oriental and African
Studies. This ethno-historical work was
never printed in its entirety even as Mr
Burghart published several articles based on
it. While he taught in the UK (1978-1988)
and later at the University of Heidelberg, Mr
Burghart published many articles which
now stand as testimony to his stature as a
formidable scholar of 5outh Asian history
and society.
These writings also established the
scholar as one of the foremost historical
anthropologists of his generation. However,
they remained scattered in various academic
journals and books, and were never compiled in a publication while Mr Burghart
was still alive. Some of his most important
essays have now been brought together in
the volume under review by anthropologists C.J. Fuller and Jonathan Spencer who
have also edited and introduced this selection of Mr Burghart's writings.
The essays in the book are organised in
three sections. The first of these contains
essays on the interpretation of Hindu society and others on Mr Burghart's empirical
research on the ascetics of the Ramanandi
sect. Together, these essays provide an original critique of Louis Dumont's most inllu-
enttal interpretation of Hindu society, proposed majestically in Homo Hierarchies
(1966 in French,  1970 in English). Mr
The Conditions of Listening:
Essays on Religion, History and
Politics in South Asia
by Richard Burghart
Edited by C. J. Fuller and Jonathan Spencer
Oxford t/niversity Press, Delhi, 1996
Price: INR 695
ISBN 0 19 563807 7
by Pratycmsh Onta
Dumont identified a single caste hierarchy—led by the brahmin—based on the
ritual encompassing of the impure by the
pure as the most essential feature of Hindu
society. He was rightly taken to task by
various scholars, some of whom argued that
notions of hierarchy in Hindu South Asia
included other aspects such as authority,
honour and prestige, and could not be reduced to a single ritually pure-impure model-
Using historical materials from his research in Nepal, Mr Burghart, in what was
an original critique of Mr Dumont, argued
that the traditional social system of Hindu
society consisted of a complex tripartite
hierarchical scheme led by the king, the
brahmin and the ascetic respectively. In
working out the complexity of this scheme,
Richard Burghart in 1973
July   1996  HIMAL South Asia
Mr Burghart used the notion of mtra-cul-
tural translation as deployed by each of the
three agents who, he argued, "absorbed
elements of the otheriwo codes into his own
code and then claimed the absolutely supreme rank in the social system." This complexity, Mr Burghart suggested, could be
ignored by the outside anthropologist interested in lntcrcultural translation only at a
great risk of misrepresentation.
Conditions of Listening
The second section of the book contains
papers on the history ol the political culture
of the nation-state in Nepal. As a set, they
exemplify both Mr Burghart's skills as a
meticulous histonan and his interest in trans-
formations ol Nepali idioms ol power, authority and agency during the past two
centuries "Gifts to the Gods" is a classic-
account locused on the king's agency as
someone engaged m cultural transaction
with respect to the gifting of lands to divinities, both celestial and human.
"The Formation ofthe Concept ol Nation-State in Nepal" is perhaps the scholar's
best-known essay among Nepal specialists
In it, and in a following essay dealing with
the use oh he category "Hindu", Mr Burghart
concerns himself with the history ofthe use
of these ideas in governmental discourse in
Nepal. His formulation helps us to understand one aspect of the history of the
Hindu-based, Nepali-language-based exclusive nationalism in Nepal
In one of the other essays in this section, using ethnographic details from the
teachers' movement of the mid-1980s,
Burghart argues that in a hierarchical social
structure with no civil society (this is how he
interpreted Nepaldunngthe Panchayat era),
the "conditions of listening" have to be
created by first generating "the moral space
in which subjects can publicly criticise." He
interprets the movement's three phases—
symhohc strike, open procession and bandh
(closing down)—as a way in which the
suhjects communicate with the king and
not simply rebel against the lord.
In the third section entitled "Complex
Agency", we find three essays that exemplify
some of Mr Burghart's other concerns: culture in the South Asian diaspora, medical
anthropology and development, and the
description ol spoken Maithili.
Powerful Insights
By publishing a selection of Richard
Burghart's scattered essays in a single volume, the editors' purpose was to present the
intellectual unity that characterised the diversity ol the scholar's writings. They have
succeeded, for The Conditions of Listening
certainly provides that opportunity and assists our appreciation of Mr Burghart's insights into South Asian history and society.
As a scholar who used histoncal materials from Nepal (more than anybody else)
to speak about the dominant organising
concepts of the anthropology of South Asia,
much ol Mr Burghart's work helped in extending the otherwise India-dominated focus ol the held By forcing most of his
colleagues who did research on 'South Asia'
(most of them would have ohtained their
doctorates without having read a single thing
on Nepal, for example) to think about a part
ofthe Subcontinent that had escaped direct
colonial rule, Mr Burghart provided powerful comparative insights for others who
delved into ihe corresponding transformations in colonised South Asia.
For Nepal specialists, Mr Burghart's
writings provide a good perspective on the
cultural history ofthe Nepali state and society It is another story thai Nepali historians
from the country have largely ignored this
distinguished scholar's work at the cost ol
their own continued intellectual incarceration within the narrow confines of political
Finally, it must also be recognised that
the anthropological highways that brought
Mr Burghart into Nepal, despite his historically informed analyses, limited his view of
Nepali society Obsessed with the king,
brahmin and the ascetic in traditional Hindu
Nepal, Mr Burghart's appreciation of more
recent Nepali society under the Panchayat
system was rather limited. His evocation of
the idiom of lordship in the essay "His
Lordship at the Cobblers' Well" does not
reveal much of an understanding of the
idiom and substance of development.
In failing to notice the agency of the
middle-class Nepali nationalists in the propagation of both Hindu- and Nepali-language-
based Nepali national culture, Mr Burghart
could only hold a narrow view of the
Panchayati public sphere His readings of
the teachers' movement in the 1980s and of
the 1990 jana Andolan (People's Movement)
that brought an end to Panchayati rule
(published elsewhere) indicate that his obsession with the idiom of lordship and governmental discourses on Nepaliness prevented him from seeing much that happened as way ol public criticism of the
Panchayati rule and the institution of kingship in Nepal during the 1980s One possible reason lor this could be the late
academic's neglect of recent Nepali-language
sources, including insightful literary works
produced by Nepalis whose terms of reference do not necessanly overlap with those
of the anthropologists of Nepal and
South Asia. ft
P. Onto is an editor of the new journal Studies
in Nepali History and Society.
1st announcement, Julv 1996
Between 21 and 23 February 1997, Kathmandu will host a festival of films on South Asia. Film
South Asia will be screening works by Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Srt Lankan as welf as
expatriate directors.
Film South Asia (FSA) follows the Film Himalaya '94 festival which was organised by Himal
magazine in February 1994. While FSA 1997 will showcase documentary films, future festivals will
also include experimental films, short films, features, teJedramas, and so on.
FSA 1997 will be a unique gathering place for documentary film-makers from all over South
Asia and overseas. FSA 1997 seeks lo create an interactive venue in Kathmandu where those involved
with documentary films will come together to exchange ideas and plan future work. Besides directors
and producers, the event will also be attended by critics, station-owners, buyers ami conoisseurs from
all over Asia.
Subject criteria: Entries will have to be on South Asian subjects, broadly understood. They can cover
any subject in the range available to documentary makers, from people, culture, lifestyle and adventure to development, environment, politics, education, history and so on.
Length: The duration of a documentary will not be considered a bar.
Format: For selection, films should be sent in VHS (PAL, NTSC or SECAM).
A seletion meeting is scheduled for November 26, 199t>. All entries must reach (he Festival
office by the first week of November 1996. Entries which are chosen will be allowed to compete and
awards will be presented lo winners in different categories. More details will be provided in the second
announcement, in August.
For entry forms and other queries, please contact:
Suman Basnet
Director, Film South Asia
PO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Fax: 977 1 521013   email: himal©
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
 The roof of the world.
Mt Everest. 8848 m . 29 may 1953
A roof for the world.
Hotel SHANGRI-LA . 82 Deluxe Rooms.1st July 1979
Yotir private paradise in Nepal
LAZIMPAT. G.P.O. BOX 655. KATHMANDU. NEPAL - TEL ; (977.1) 412999 - PAX : (977.1) 414184 - TELEX: 2276 HOSANG NP
Lyn de Alwis
Sri Lanka's Mr Zoo
This Sri Lankan man is able to bring pleasure to millions
with his knack for running zoos. He also saves wild
by Manik de Silva
"I'VE SPENT THE best years ol my life
here," says Lyn de Alwis, now back at the
Dehiwela Zoo outside Colombo to which
he devoted 30 years of his working
life, 23 of them as its Director.
Those were golden years for the
zoo, located in a southern suburb,
and regarded as one of the finest in
the region both for its collection
as well as its beautifully laid gardens.
But more recently, Colombo's
zoological gardens have been in
acute decline and the government
has recalled the former director
from retirement to serve it as a
The impact of his return is already being felt, with a new enthusiasm evident among both staff and
visitors who are returning to a once-
favourite recreation spot in growing
numbers. Decidedly, there is a
new bloom around the place.
Mr de Alwis says that a lot more
remains to be done, but is quietly
confident that the zoo can regain its
past glory.
Night Life
For five years between 1965-70,
Mr de Alwis concurrently held the
position of both Zoo Director and
Director of Wildlife Conservation.
He firmly believes that the best way
to study animals, whether in their
natural habitat or in captivity, is on
foot. So he does a lot of walking every day
in the gardens in much the same way an
estate superintendent would in a plantation under his care, spotting the myriad
things that need doing, giving instructions, following up.
The achievements at Dehiwela during Mr
de Alwis's years was what attracted
Singapore authorities to invite him to set
up the new zoo they were planning. That
was in 1970, when he was given a 22 5-acre
forest and a mandate to create an open air
facility incorporating the features of a
modern zoo. "They knew what they
wanted, having toured many zoos, particularly in the US and Europe. They saw
what we had at Dehiwela and decided to
give us the job," Mr de Alwis recalls.
The Singapore Zoo took three years
and a lot of hard work to build. The result,
however, was immediate: one million visitors a year soon after opening. The zoo that
Mr de Alwis built is now firmly on the
tourist map of Singapore. It is patronised
by locals and is also popular among ^
foreign visitors. §
In 1986, when Mr de Alwis g
retired from his position of Direc- "
tor ofthe Dehiwela Zoo, Singapore
invited him to come back and use
the remaining land to set up what
has become its unique Night Safari . Having seen leopard and tiger
beats' under lights at the Royal
Chitwan National Park in Nepal,
Mr de Alwis believed that it would
be possible to give zoo visitors a
unique experience of watching the
night-time behaviour of animals
in a simulated nocturnal habitat.
"Actually, it was my wife
who gave me the idea," Mr de
Alwis admits. "I always felt that if
we could show nocturnal animals
out in the open with a certain
amount of lighting, people would
get a much better understanding
of how animals behave at night."
The Night Safari is now the rage in
Singapore, where visitors can see
several species of animals mingling at night in enclosures that
are much bigger than normal zoos.
Mr de Alwis originally wanted truly
"huge" enclosures, but had to compromise. The size was reduced so
that the animals would be clearly
visible to visitors.
"The darkness conceals many of the
devices that advertise the animals' captive
condition in the daytime—fences, moats,
HIMAL South Asia July  1996
walls, chain hnks," wnies Nirmal Ghosh,
an Indian journalist based in Singapore, in
an article for Stiver Kns, the Singapore
Airlines inflight magazine. "The zoo expe-
rience will never be the same after you've
visited the Night Safari, a one-of-a-kind
exposure to the nocturnal habits of some
ofthe members of the animal kingdom."
The Singapore Zoological Gardens
have now set up a consultancy group to
which Mr de Alwis belongs. Its role is to
help other countries with their zoos This
group has already been approached by
Burma, Cambodia and Indonesia
Elephant Man
Mr de Alwis's professional involvement
with animals is somewhat unique because
not only has he dealt with animals in
captivity, but has also headed his country's
Wild Life Conservation Department, running Sri Lanka's national parks and regulating the fauna conservation effort. As in
many other developing countnes, this has
been an uphill battle with man and animals competing for resources that become
scarcer by the day.
In retirement, new life has been
breathed into Mr de Alwis's interest in
wildlife conservation with his appointment as head of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AESG) set up by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union. The Asian elephant now
survives in the wild in 1.3 countnes and
four of them (India, Thailand, Indonesia
and Sn Lanka) are represented in the
AESG mandated to develop conservation
Mr de Alwis, who has been travelling
to Burma and Indochina as part of his new
responsibilities, says some very worthwhile breakthroughs have been made. "We
must look at the whole ol Asia and not just
a few countnes. I started approaching governments and governmental agencies in
many countnes where the Asian elephant
survives and have had some very encouraging responses," he says
"Burma's Minister of Forestry has been
most enthusiastic and he personally invited us to his country. He sent us under
escort lo elephant country in difficult areas
and himself organised a workshop. We
made a similar approach to Cambodia and
they were very open and very keen We
have also sent a group to Vietnam and nght
now we are getting into Laos."
Most elephants in Indochina live in
huge contiguous forests covering the territory of three countnes—Laos, Cambodia
and Vietnam. An estimated 300 elephants
live in this region. Ideally, an elephant
reserve would be created encompassing
the territory of all three countries, and Mr
de Alwis is optimistic. "All three countnes
are keen on protecting this heritage," he
says. AESG is also involved with elephant
conservation in Szechuan in southern
China, where there is likely to be an estimated population of 300 elephants.
"When there is the resource and funds
are available, you are encouraged to think
ol new enterprises", says Mr de Alwis.
"Whether it is zoos, conservation or anything else, we all talk glibly about the need
for political will. But it is we who must be
the instrument of secunng that will. And
when you start something, the beautiful
thing is that you get support which you
least anticipated." ft
1. Contested Hierarchies: A Collaboration Ethnography of Caste
in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal - David Gellner & Declan Quigley.
2. Claiming the High Ground: Sherpa, Subsistence 4 Environmental
Change in the Highest Himalaya - Stanly F. Stevens.
3. Three Years in Tibet - Ekai Kawaguchi (Reprint)
4. The Treasure Revealer of Bhutan - P. Tshewang, K. P. Tashi,
C. Butter & S. K. Saetreng.
5. Images of a Century:
The Changing Townscape of the Kathmandu Valley
6. Gods, Men & Territory:
Society 4 Culture in Kathmandu Valley - Anne Vergati
7. Anthropology of Nepal:
People, Problems 4 Processes - Edited by Michael Allen
8. Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies
- Geoffrey Samuel (Mandala Edition is being published by arrangement
with Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, USA)
9. Faces of Nepal - Jan Salter & Harka Gurung
cy P.O. Box No.: 528, Kantipath, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: +977-1-227711, 245570 (O), 216100 (R)
Fax: +00977-1-227600, 221129 Attn: Madhab
Visit Mandala
Scholarly books, maps and
guides on Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan
and the Indian Himalaya
We accept
July   J9.96   HIMAL South Asia
 Airline Schedule for South Asia
i ■
H^SM^i^i^iMMliiini; JU:;:;;!:;:;;::;::;::;;: [OSi:
?.      1 j
H   TO      FLT NBR
CUB                    UL 182
* PK 291
j. ..    .  ■
UL 142
04 00/0530
IC 813
1100/124 5
BG 018
DC 10
RA 218
BG 030
KB 108
1140/1 345
PK 275
RA 206
1135/1 320
UL 181
RA 206
IC 631
RA 206A
PK 277
RA 202
PK 271
<r*mrr n i i	
PK274            1234
IC 632            37
UL 182           4
4sivSi>Sfts ifci
BG 698
IC 225
PK 276
BG 092
UL 184
BG 092
PK 776
BG 092
PK 266
0700/1 120
BG 092
BG 024
BG 092
PK 272
BG 094
PK 272
BG 094
PK 290
BG 094
PK 268
BG 096
LH 764
BG 094
PK 249
064 5/1030
IC 723
PK 262
IC 747
RA 214
KB 106
124 6
PK 774
RA 201
B757                1730/1950
KB 106
RA 201
IC 748
HA 213
iC 226
ft-ft U^"
BG 697
25              ATP                  14 20/1505
3                 A320               1830/2100
BG 704
BG 704
SQ 413
i i "- „   '
BOM """
UL 181
UL 141
IC G14
UL 191
RA 217
PK 775
KB 107
0910/1 045
IC 574
DAILY      A300
RA 205
UL 121
RA 205
UL 123
RA 205A
UL 121
PK 269
1 B30/2050
UL 123
LH 765
A31 0-300
104 5/1255
UL 121
J 67
PK 250
UL 121
PK 263
1 000/1220
UL 123
KB 108
UL 101
UL 103
UL 103
UL 101
UL 103
PK 777
24 67
PK 270
;v*!'T: ■ T:::F'i:i!i!i:i|
DAILY     A300              1130/1350
IC 573
UL 101
UL 122
UL 103
UL 124
UL 101
LI 011
UL 122
UL 103
UL 124
UL 161
1015/1 115
UL 122
UL 131
UL 124
UL 161
._  _ .._.	
i    . —   - m i
UL 161
UL 102
_   IC 908  _
UL 104
UL 104
PK 774
BG 017
UL 102
UL 104
BG 091
UL. 102
BG 091
UL 102
1000/1 155
BG 091
1100/11 10
UL 104
L101 1
2250/004 5
BG 091
UL 104
BG 091
PK 777
14 25/1 755
BG 093
UL 183
204 0/2355
BG 093
IC 964
14 30/1610
BG 093
BG 095
IC 964
5                A320
BG 093
v „    **4i   ¥:'''-'•
BG 011
KB 105
"BAE14V" '
BG 009
KB 105
PK 267
KB 109
BG 023
1 73C/2000
KB 107
BG 703
BG 703
SQ 414
BG 703
KB 110
A31 3
134 5/14 50
CMB         _ _     UL 132           27             A3J20
"'"  ft' 111
12             A320               1225/1325
UL 162
KB 110
UL 162
UL192            46               A320                0320/0650
IC 907
UL 162
BG 010
IC 963
BG 012
PK 273
PK 273
1 1 10/1240
IC 963
5                  A320                 1335/1415
2467        B737                1015/1125
f J,   )M % ft: * --ftrf 4iK^:l^
IC 252
This is a schedule for
direct flight connections
between countries of
SAARC, compiled by
HIMAL South Asia on
the basis of information
provided by airlines.
Please note that in some
cases, travel between
South Asian cities tends
to be routed through
outside hubs.
Air Lanka = UL
Bangladesh Biman = BG
Druk Air = KB
Indian Airlines = IC
Lufthansa - LH
'akistan International = PK
Royal Nepal = RA
Singapore Airlines = SQ.
1 = Monday, 2-Tuesday,
3=Wednesday, 4=Thursday,
5- Friday, 6-Saturday,
All=Every Day
All timings are local time.
Indian Airlines schedule effective
irom July 15.
HIMAf South Asia  July   1996
A correspondent from Dhaka taking exception to my companng Bangla businessman Salman Rahman's joining politics
with that of Pakistan's Imran Khan, writes.
"The tycoon (Rahman) has the highest
profile m the country and is Chief of the
Federation of Chambers and Beximco
Group which has more than 20% of the
total share market capitalisation. His
candidature was challenged in the Court
on the grounds that he is a loan defaulter
which is a disqualification but he obtained
a last moment stay order and campaigned
vigorously. But in the election his deposit
was forfeited. His Samnddho Bangladesh
Andolon (Prosperous Bangladesh Movement) partisans did even worse."
More on Bangladeshis ol note which I have
not read in the press but which has arrived
on Chhetria Patrakar'sdesk: "Runa Laila's
second marnage to a Swiss genatnc went
bust. She has sought and got Court protection from the Swissman's harassment. RL,
by the way, celebrated her personal crossing of the 300 pounds weight mark by
becoming the heroine ol a movie based on
her lite. Presumably paid tor by ber too.
Ignore if you know this all."
Indian activism is galloping along the information superhighway, leaving the
blunderbuss government far behind in the
effort to win hearts and minds through the
internet. DuringSunderlal Bahuguna's73-
day-old most-recent fast against the building of Tehri Dam, the Save Himalaya Campaign was actively seeking support, providing last-minute instructions, and generally using this new information device to
great use. 1 list below the addresses that the
SHC kept informed about Bahuguna's fast.
From what comes below, what 1 find most
interesting is that it is Indians talking to
each other. If you look carefully at the
addresses, you are bound to recognise
names and email addresses of people you
know. I counted 17 1 definitely knew,
including Himal's.
Wed, 26 Jun 1996 13:47:53 1ST+5.5
To: bandyopa@sc2a.unige ch,,
bernbaum@violet.berkeley edu,,,,,
commonfuture@gn.apc org,,,
irn@igc.apc org.,
aiache@unv.emet in,
akoihari@unv.emei in. cendit@unv emet in,
didc@unv, greenedii@unv.emei in,
system@ifrcml.unv emet in,
mona@unv.emet in,,,,
raj eev@pilsarc.unv. ernet. in,
pnkj@unv.emet in,,,,
redcross@unv, saiya@unv,
smenonffiunv.ernet. in,
nair@icaroap.unv.ernet in,
vinay@aaind.unv.ernet in,
system@ccaind.unv. emet. in,,
ture, it states, "will develop Irom Ongolein
Andhra Pradesh in a north-west direction
towards Gujarat, along a segment passing
through central Maharashtra." It seems
that North India decided to stop all movement after it collided with the Asian plate,
while Southern India, as always having a
mind of its own. has decided to continue
without reducing speed towards the east.
The suspicion that South India wants
to join ASEAN by itself is thus proved
It has long been known to those who
follow geopolitical trends of the Subcontinent that Pakistanis will willingly let go of
their claims on Kashmir li they can get
CTCM.&OFtifr OJlrjtrul'
liza@cmaiunv.emet, in,
daman@ds unv emet, in,
tauis\<<5hsrn.unv.emet in,
erica@igss.unv.emet. in,
rana@nen. unv.ernet. in,
gkaur@oxfama unv ernet in.
john@plural. unv. ernet. in,
vedarya@pradan.unv.ernet, in,
sakdel@sakshi unv,
srambhi@scpl unv,
sampda@sldel unv.ernet in,
susan@sltil.unv.emei .in,
sudama@sudama.unv.emet in,
meera@svp. unv, ernet. in,
aro@tarud unv.emet in,
system@tibdel. unv. ernet. in,
system@tibrev.unv ernet in,
system@tom. unv. ernet. in,,,
angoc@igc.apc org
Since the political boundaries
defined by the 1947 colonials are really
not to anyone's liking, those whose job it is
to be concerned over this sort of thing have
long been pondering over some other basis for the division of South Asia. Since-
one criteria is good as another, how about
splitting the Subcontinent on the basis of
geological forces which are at this very
moment tearing India into half. The Journal of the Geological Society of India is very
specific on where this divide occurs. Frac-
special report
'Madhuri de de, Kashmir le le
iriito Indian and PakMui,fdiiiclam have ukmflix Jfiatla to „wW <„fa,«w
•Jewrr really abr'.xi
t or^rta'L'i lo epeb other.
Madhuri Dixit in return. N'ikhat Kazmi,
the cinema connoisseur, now places that
fact before the Indian public with the
headline "Madhuri de de, Kashmir le le "
Question: will the great Indian nation willingly part with the luscious Ms Dixit7
What ofthe rnega-star herself, will she go?
Where will she live, Karachi or Islamabad?
I would suggest Lahore, the city where
SouthAsian cinema really began. The only
problem is il the Kashmiris decided that
they want Madhuri.
"What if Maldives Disappears Under the
Sea" is the headline, without question mark, in the latest ELG
Feature to arrive by mail. What
indeed, if the Maldives disappears under the sea? Most
importantly, it would devastate the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation,
which would have to come down
from an all time high of seven members to
six. So the big challenge then would be
which one ofthe whirls on the SAARC logo
should be dropped. I propose a summit
meeting in Male soon, before it disappears
underwater, to consider the matter.
We have hardly had time to deal with the
Maldives problem when l.K. Gujral comes
along to complicate matters. The first major policy announcement the new Indian
July   1996  HIMAL South Asia
Foreign Minister had
to make as he took
office was to announce Afghanistan and
Burma should
also be brought
in as members
of SAARC. Several problems.
What about the logo, again'' On Afghanistan, do we first wait for the country
to break up, so that we can have more
members7 And Burma, il even Aung San
Suu Kyi wants to join ASEAN, do we drag
her kicking and screaming into SAARC?
Nepal's national (government-owned)
news agency Rashtriya Samachar Samiti
reported on 2 July that "a herd of 1 2 wild
elephants were seen fleeing the park areas
towards India via Kithayandhalak onjune
26" The very next line, which completes
the news item: "Like other wildlife, elephants also migrate every year," it is stated
So now let us get this clear, so that we do
not have a diplomatic incident with any
one country accusing the other ol harassing wildlife or trying to loot pachyderm
wealth Irom across the border, li the elephants were fleeing, who was pursuing
them from the Nepal side, and why would
the Nepalis want to lose their well-earned
elephants? It there was an intention of
India to want these creatures for whatever
purpose, it would be enticing them, in
which case the elephants would not be
fleeing, but being drawn across the border.
So, newsmen, lets get our descriptive terms
right. We do not want a diplomatic incident of elephantine proportions in our
Tke New Motion ol
Dhaka is teaching me
arithmetic all over
again Five out ol three
women who stood for
elections, it seems, got
elected. Which leads
me to only one conclusion Each Bangladeshi female candidate
must make up about 2.5 women. So, if two
women candidates win. that makes a total
ol live, right7 Please get my abacus, the
South Asian life is getting complicated.
What would I not give at this point to be a
Bhutanese civil servant7 For the headline
in Kuensel reads, "His Majesty Commands
Salary Increase". It seems, the take-
home of all Druk Yul civil servants will be up by 25 per-
entfrom 1 July 1996. and
50 percent lor gups and
chimi.s, (Make that a
correction, I'd rather
be a gup or a chimi.)
Finance Minister
Lyonpo D Tshenng
said that there had
been a 90percent salary increase at the
lower levels since 19R8
He added, "In the event the
resource position improves, the
royal government will consider further
increases in the salary ol civil servants in
the near future." Wow. It must be true what
they say, that Bhutan will soon overtake
Singapore, leave SAARC and join ASIiAN.
Who needs SAARC with those pay scales?
Good letter in selfsame Kuensel, by a musician/forestry adviser (honest) Irom
Zhemgang named Egger Topper, who com-
ments on the worries expressed by the
editor that Hindi, English and Nepali songs
are more popular than Bhutanese songs.
While Hindi and Nepali music has successfully incorporated modern elements
into their modern traditions, there is an
attempt lo protect Bhutanese music-
through isolation At the same lime, at the
popular level, the beautilul Bhutanese
melodies, the gentle and subtle voices arc-
being drowned out by cheap synthesised
accompaniments. Mr Toppe suggests that
Bhutanese musicians be trained in the
rudiments of modern music, particularly
in harmomsation, so that they can try and
reach for a "quality fusion of traditional
and modern music. ...Preser-vation of culture is a dynamic ongoing [process and not
merely a static protective one." Forestry7
This man should be made the new Director General ol I'NtisCO.
Glad to learn that bilateral links are being
established between photojournalists of
South Asia. Just arrived, an announcement that in late September, a joint photo
exhibition will be held in Kathmandu by
the Photographic Society of Pakistan and
the Nepal Photographic Society. The exhibition will include 11.3 photographs of 27
Nepali and 27 Pakistani photographers.
Alter Kathmandu, the exhibition will travel
to Islamabad, Lahore, Quctta and "possibly" Karachi. Which gave me an idea,
doubtless unoriginal: South Asian cooperation does not always have to involve all
South Asian countnes. Often, shows and
seminars might be more interesting, and
more interesting, il they were to be held
under the SouthAsian banner, but involving bilateral or trilateral participants.
The headline I understood least during
the month ol June, Irom The Independent oi
j::     UN conference on citles'^feil-
Leaders moot!
:  women s
sexual rights
■    -Il'^.-'M: ■■- --    \'vft/' •   ft ft" ft^"^  'ftft'Iftir-T^ftftftftftftft
rton» *»*w:irfW;fc*^*«li»tft-;l
ItftMR **i OlUllfltit: W**ftBM| ■ ■
Chhetria Patrakar
«*■ lM4rr«:**flfcv n Fafrtf
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
The national-level politicians and political parties
have failed Nepal, oblivious as they are of cynicism
and desperation that is developing countrywide.
by Rishikesh Shaha
Idea and Reality,
Nepal and Rolpa
Nepal is passing through a critical state of
transition. The institutional development of democracy can easily receive a
serious setback if the key players on ihe
national political stage do not play their
cards skillfully and cautiously. The future of
democracy will largely depend on the success ofthe people of Nepal and its leaders to
bridge the gap between the country as constituted by law and the country as a reality.
That this gap is widening into a chasm is
amply visible in the violence that has overtaken central Nepal.
In welcoming parliamentary style gov-
ernment, the country has apparently
wrenched off the root of tradition but the
fact remains t hat. tradition always dies hard.
It remains to be seen how Nepali polity will
fare in the coming years. There is enormous
disparity, as Carlos Fuentes would have put
it, "between the revolutionary texts, the
ideas and the reality, the acts, (and) what
has actually happened" in Nepal.
The problem is that this euphoric spell
of freedom brought about by breaking the
chains of tyranny and tradition may only
prove to be ephemeral, and age-old historical conditions and deeply ingrained habits
of thought and mind may prompt these
societies to move in reverse one day.
King Pnthvinarayan Shah, the founder ol
Nepal as a state, had long ago declared
himself the King of Magarat. This was a
federation which existed prior to the 13th
century, in what is now central Nepal, ol 12
petty states extending from today's Tanahu
distnct to Rolpa district By the 15th century, in the wake ol the Muslim invasion ol
India, Rajput chieftains from Rajasthan are
said to have made their way into ihe hill
areas inhabited by Magars and other indigenous tribes and carved out principalities
for themselves and their progeny. All those
principalities were eventually incorporated
into the modern Kingdom of Nepal by
Pnthvinarayan Shah and his successors in
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
Today, Magars, constituting 7 2 percent of Nepal's population, are the largest
ethnic group in the country. And it is this
very area of Magarat that is now bearing the
brunt ofthe Maoist "People's War" launched
by Mohan Vaidya aka Kiran, Pushpa Kamal
Dahal aka Prachanda, along with Baburam
Bhattarai and Pampha Bhusal ofthe United
People's Front (UPF).
What started in mid-February with a
series ol simultaneous attacks on the police-
stations in the neighbouring districts of
Rolpa and Rukum, appeared to have been
effectively tackled by a police operation
code-named "Romeo". But events since then
have shown tbe "war" lo be far from over.
Rather, as we found out during a human
rights fact-finding mission to the region in
May, more and more people are being affected by the violence around them
Following the insurgency by the UPF
and the reciprocal counter-insurgency by
the police, the common people ol Rolpa and
the surrounding distnets have had to suffer
all kinds of excesses and atrocities through
no fault of their own They a re terror-stricken
and traumatised. Cases of rape, brutal killings and arson by both sides have, victimised
innocents with gross injustice, brutal excesses and atrocities.
There is no civil government in Rolpa
except for the presence ofthe Chief District
Office r and his staff and the army and police
personnel The distnct court is not functioning and neither is the District Development Committee The Tulsipur distnct jail
is meant to handle no more than 50 inmates
but houses more than a hundred. Both male
and female detainees are herded together
and are separated only at night. Each group
is shut in with a bucket ot water and a
pitcher, and nothing else. The only respite
in the entire region seems to be provided by
the army which has organised a medical
mobile learn to provide succour to the victims of both ihe police and (he Maoists.
Callous Unconcern
Because ihe situation in Magarat is a harbinger of desperate times for tbe rest ol the
country, it is important lor leaders ol Nepali
society to find a political solution. Skirting
the issue m the hope that police action will
set il right is being extremely naive and
short-sighted. Unfortunately, the attitude of
the top-level leadership of all the major
political parties seems to be precisely that,
which is only representative ol the national
capital's response to the violence.
The Kathmandu-based media and the
national-level political parties seem to be
hardly aware that nearly 50 people, almost
entirely villagers, have already lost then-
lives due to the anti-'Maoist' reaction ofthe
state. The news stories are mere afterthoughts, and the headlines gel smaller by
the day. The editors are piously oblivious ol
the Slate of insurgency and counter-insurgency that has prevailed in these remote hill
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
districts lor more than live months Other
than straight reports, no Kathmandu periodical or newspaper has delved into the
origins of this grave state ol affairs
One can very well imagine what would
have happened il so many people had died
in Kathmandu Valley, where many a time
political parties have exploited even accidental deaths of individuals to try and topple
governments and subvert constitutional
processes. Kathmandu's complacent and
indifferent attitude towards the events in
Rolpa and elsewhere merely reflects the
unconcern ol the mainstream political parties about the happenings in remote areas.
Commoner's Despair
It is the dismal perlormance ol these mainstream national political groupings so far
that has served to strengthen the Maoist
appeal to the people in some areas. Unscrupulous, viciously selfish, and narrow-
minded party politics has already made the
. -mmon people despair of political pluralism and the multi-party political system
even before it has attained its adulthood.
The people of Nepal have already seen all
the national level political parties in and out
of the government. Their utter lack of any
;ense ol accountability, efficiency and capacity to implement their election promises
and deliver the goods have made
people cynical about the nation's prospects
:n luture.
The very loundation and structure ot
.he state seem to have been adversely af
fected by the nefarious designs .
ol  the  political  parties  in       ~ J
politicise the permanent cm
service and other constitutional  organs of the state     ,
PUch as the judiciary, the    f
Public Service Commission
and  ihe Auditor General';
office, which are the lormal and
external   safeguards   of   democracy
There is no doubt Nepal has a popularly elected parliament and a government
directly responsible to u But the electoral
success ol the party does not in itsell lend
legitimacy to the constitutional process of
governance. "Legitimacy involves both the
performance capacity of the system and the
sentiments of the population towards governmental authority, and basic to a legitimacy crisis is a change in the way governmental authority is conceived or itself acts."
said veteran American scholar Lucien Pye
In other words, getting elected, though
an essential prerequisite, is not in itself a
sufficient condition of legitimacy. Legitimacy also entails efficient performance, a
sense of accountability and the maintenance
of order and stability The signs ol an imminent legitimacy crisis are already visible in
Nepal's fledgling democracy, and the immateriality accorded to the civilian deaths in
Rolpa is a foretaste of difficult clays ahead
R. Shaha, Nepal's statesman scholar, has been
active in human rights in recent years.
Magarat in Central Nepal
The root problem of divisiveness in the
Subcontinent stems from the arrogant
assumption of the contemporary (Aryan)
exponents of aggressive Hinduism that they
speak for the whole of India.
by Bill Aitken
Neo-Aryan Bid For Power
For what it is worth, this is a traveller's
contribution to the current heated debate over India's hung Parliament. Mainstream thinking considers the Indian electorate bloody-minded in its indecision But
one can also regard the impasse as inevitable, owing to the clash of past religious
prejudice against the masses and the psychological hangups of a minority who seek
to re-establish their hold on power.
Any overview of India's religious history usually starts at the ancient Indus valley
site ol Mohenjodaro. Though now al ienated
Irom Hinduism in the heart of Pakistan, the
(act is, Hindus hardened their hearts against
the Indus several thousand years before
A lounding myth of today's right-wing
Hindu neo-Aryans {neo tor 'northern', 'extremist' and 'orthodox'I—those committed
to re-establishing what they cherish as a
glorious era in Indian history—is that the
fair-skinned Aryans possessed a supenor
civilisation to that ol their darker Dravidian
Iocs whose cities they overcame.
In fact, the opposite was true. And if
you want modern evidence ol Dravidian
superiority in matters ol urban civilisation
you only have to visit the civic orderliness of
Mysore or Cochin and compare it with the
uniformly scrully and anarchic municipal
mess that characterises any town in the Cow
Belt of the north
Another fast one that the neo-Aryan
tries to pull is the myth that India is essentially an Aryan, orthodox, high-caste-driven
nation. Lmbarrassingly, this claim does not
mesh with ground reality India includes
Dravidians in the south and Mongols in the
North-bast, who have never accepted
brahmanical domination
India gets her name from the Indus and
refers simply to the people living on its
further shore as viewed from the Aryan
heartland ol Iran. Prom Indus also sprang
Hinduism, a polytheistic religion ol the
people loosely organised under the remarkable institution of brahmanical authority
based on popular respect.
Hindustan refers to the land ofthe Hindus, but in fact their 'sthan' is confined to
ihe north and west where Hindi is spoken,
Hindi beingthe orphan ofthe dead classical
language Sanskrit, the immaculate, elitist
tongue ol the Aryans.
The Aryan north's ignorance ot the
Indian reality is seen in its blindness to the
culturally superior claims oh he Tamil tongue
to be India's leading language Unlike San-
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
sknt, which died because of its brahmanical
aloofness, Tamil is still going si rong and is
the only claimant to living classical status in
the Subcontinent. If the Aryan seeks what is
noble, why does he not cultivate an ancient
tongue that is still alive7
We know inter-denominational haired
is as much a reality as the hostility between
different faiths. Travels around the Subcontinent confirms in my mind the thesis that
current politico-religious tensions derive
from that unresolved conflict witnessed at
Wannabe Maharashtrian Aryans
Consider the fact that leading exponents of
neo-Aryamsm derive moral sustenance
largely from Maharashtra, which borders
India's south. Here, zeal for the supposed
brahmanical way of doing things is a characteristic that distinguished great Hindus
like Chhattrapati Shivaji (who bought his
high caste status), and lesser exemplars like
Tilak and Savarkar, who were openly communal in their recipe for India's recuperation from foreign domination. The Rashtnya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which provides
the storm troopers ofthe 'Hindutva' movement, also has its headquarters in
The chorus ol wannabe high-caste
Maharashtnan Aryans of whom the latest
and shrillest voice is that of the maverick
Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, is ihat Hinduism, as they understand it, is under threat.
Significantly, before Islam became the bogeyman for neo-Aryans, Mr Thackeray considered Dravidians to be the threat
Aryan Shri Ram
"Swaraj is my birthright and 1 will
have it," is the typically pugnacious voice
of the Maratha. but the brahmanical
Tilak, who first voiced it, made no reference
to the hirtbright of the lower castes. Incidentally, the word Maratha originally connoted shudra, the base ol the Hindu caste-
Ihe word "vama" from which caste
derives means "colour", with the implication of Aryan superiority altendani on the
fall of Mohenjodaro. Neo-Aryans assume
fair, aquiline noses are civihsationally in
advance ol dark broad noses, as is evident
from today's matrimonial demands
Anthropomorphic Hinduism
Hinduism, ihe mother of all faiths, is the
great matrix oi spiritual inventiveness, ancient in her sponsorship id the honest, questing mind, and modem in her liberal hosting
ol an anthropomorphic solution to the nature of divinity
Exemplars of Hinduism's highest teachings include the intellectual genius of Sn
Aurobindo, the advaitist exponent Sri
Ramana Mahanshi, and devotional avatar
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, The Sangh Panvar and
the rest of the family that the BJP keeps,
including the Shiv Sena, prefer to operate
from the gutter level, mouthing populist
stunts to grab the attention ol the masses. It
does not even shnnk from employing neurotic sadhvis to pour venom on other religions publicly. The destruction of a national
monument was the fruit ol such vandalistic
More enlightened Hindus are aghast at
the hijacking of their religion by the neo-
Aryan ginger group but, at the same lime,
are apprehensive about the likely poor performance ot a low-caste government.
The occasion for the territorial isolation
ofthe BJP in the recent elections is due to the
hangover of Partition. Most ol their supporters in ihe north and west were those
dispossessed by the terrible trauma ol' cultural eviction They thirst for revenge lo
cloak their hatred of Pakistan, they adopt
the mantle of born-agam Aryans, blind to
ihe real cause of their hurt.
India's striving since independence has
been to assert a national identity worthy oi
her civilisational strength. Conquest by-
Muslim armies and assimilation by Indian
armies of the colonising British are
perceived by some as an insult to be
avenged. The partition ol India lo accommodate Muslim Pakistan was viewed as the
last straw.
Nathuram Godse, the RSS member who
shot Mahatma Gandhi, voiced the frustration of this lobby. He also revealed, under
his brahmanical pride, the bottom line on
how the lofty original teachings oi Hinduism have been betrayed by us priestly custodians. Gandhi was shot tor allowing the
repatriation ol funds to Pakistan.
These high-caste feelings of outrage are
usually attributed to the inter-faith war between polytheists and monotheisls. But the
traveller finds much more rapport between
two Punjabis—one an Indian Hindu and
the other a Pakistani Muslim—than between, say, a Hindu Punjabi and a Hindu
South Indian
Clearly, there is a deeper cause tor the
Indo-Pakistani hatred and this may well lie
in the lalloul ofthe Moheruodaro conflict.
Many ofthe Indian converts to Islam were
Irom the lower castes who felt their
new religion offered them more digmty
than the old
The strength of the brahmanical faith is
extraordinary' as it has managed to survive
intact even alter the vicissitudes ot millennia. But us fatal weakness lies in its weapon
of spiritual heredity. Only a tewwereableto
realise this was not meant to be taken literally as a physical fact.
The downward graph ol social inj usttce
started when psychic truths were ignored
and the easier path of ltteralness was followed. Mohenjodaro-type victories added
to the physical sense oflordmgit overlesser
beings and the divisions of society based on
colour, then caste, hardened
Wuh the power interregnum created
by the Muslim and British paramountancy
over, today's neo-Aryan hopes to reclaim
the driver's seat but fail to realise two points,
to their detriment First, that democracy is
antithetical to hereditary claims and the
privileges of birth can no longer be cashed in
on to intimidate those ol inferior social
station. Second, by championing the escajj-
ist Vedic ideal of Advaita. they distance
themselves from the majority of Hindus
who prefer the devotional mode oi religious
The Ayodhya Act
Hindus are not great haters. The genius ol
their religion is inclusiveness in spite of the
current propensity ofthe debased brahmin
to exclude, "the culmination of neo-Aryan
attempts to bully Indian democracy to take
note ol the narcissistic, arrogant agenda was
the destruction oi" ihe Babri Masjid in
Ayodhya. This one action, more than anything else, has served to lower the reputation oi Hinduism internationally
The act in Ayodhya points to how far
from Indian ideals neo-Aryans are prepared
to go lor a share of" power The original
Aryans, as is well known, were quite the
July   1996   HIMAL South Asia
are being made out
opposite from what tbe-
to be by the distorting propaganda of the
RSS They drank heavily, gambled wildly,
and ate meat, none of which appeals to the
puritanical RSS, whose mission, therefore,
has to include the deliberate obfuscatton
of history
The missionary zeal of neo-Aryans is a
giveaway oi their alien credentials They
have consciously adopted the Semitic tone
of paternalist morality with its black-and-
white view of lite, a stance thai is foreign to
the true Hindu rainbow view of the universe The Sangh Panvar has prelerred ihe
narrow vision ol lundamentalist monotheism over the Hindu hentage of plurality of
approaches to the divine
The traveller to the South finds that
matrimonial ads there are less insistent on
"lair" brides   High castes might get away
with  rape  and  murder  in  the
North, but can find themselves
discriminated  against   in  the
South.  Penyar, the vociferous
voice ol the Dravidian ethos, is
today the atheistic  mentor of
Tamil politics, in head-on collision with the Sangh Panvar over
the status of the Aryan hero-divinity Ram
In the scripture-epics of the north, the
Dravidians are depicted as the Rakshasas,
demons, to underline how the Aryan mindset
has not wavered in the "5000 years since the
Rigveda was composed. Few north Indians
are even aware that the Tamils have their
own epics Interestingly, the Tamil depiction of womanhood is totally at variance
with the north Indian ideal of Sua, the
submissive wife. The southern Kannagi is a
fiery character who demands and gets
Love To Hate You
Two other example will suffice to reinforce
my thesis that the root problem of divisive-
ness in the Subcontinent stems from the
arrogant assumption of the Aryan that he
speaks lor the whole of India
First, there is the violent rejection ofthe
modern north-Indian politician V.P. Singh
by India's middle classes even though he
belongs to a pnncely family, is a man of
poetic parts and, like the archetypical warrior-king Ram, is not desperate to assume
power. What was his sin? He championed
the cause of social justice that would
empower the lower castes The raja is
now viewed as a traitor to his class.
The second example is in the "colonies" of
Delhi where, in the last ten years, iron gates
have burgeoned at private expense to
signify fear over the  city.  Who are  the
capital's rich afraid of?
These two examples point to the same
enemy, the enl ranchised masses, those tower
castes ihat Indian high society has loved
lo hate for millennia. The hates ol the neo-
Aryan are much more in evidence than
his loves
Perhaps the most curious omission of
the "outcaste" leader Dr Ambedkar was his
failure to address the basic psychological
hangup of Hinduism's higher castes, the
concept of their inborn superiority. While
untouchability occasioned by the arrogance
of the "twice born" was legally abolished,
the privileged aura surrounding brahmanical
spiritual pedigree remains
India's rulers, the kshatnya class, were
summarily dispossessed of their titles
and pensions in 1972 to show the aggressive
lace   ol   republican   sentiment,   but
The Aryan north's ignorance of the Indian
reality is seen in its blindness to the culturally
superior claims of the Tamil tongue to be
India's leading language
nothing has been done to derecognise the
brahmin's assumed right ol way in contemporary India.
In a typical high-caste sleight of hand,
no mention ol brahmins is made in the latest
census of India's religious communities. In
order to conceal their minority status, they
are presumed not to exist on a priestly basis
but only surface as a caste. The ludicrous-
ness of pretending that guardians ol Hinduism are no longer in control of their hereditary nghts shows lo what lengths the high
castes of all political parties will go to evade
ground realities.
The Learned
The strength oi the brahmanical order has
been its ability to command the voluntary
respect of Hindu society by virtue of its
commitment to learning. It is significant
that the only centralised dynasties were the
Buddhist Mauryas, the Muslim Mughals
and the Christian British. The Gupta empire
was restricted to the north and the equally
impressive Vijayanagar empire to the south
The third Hindu empire, that of Shi vaji,
was a sideshow ol more symbolic significance than of physical extent This
organisational looseness of Hinduism allowed village republic panchayats to operate over the centuries though not without
the attendant injustice of caste exclusion. It
was the British intrusion and stimulus of
commercial centres  that  threatened  the
brahmanical status quo.
What is not asked is why the nationalist
Marathas with their vast territorial conquests allowed alien traders to wrest their
right to rule? The truth is the British looted
to some purpose while the Marathas pillaged at random The lormer appeared to be
a lesser evil. The British broke the monopoly
tin brahmanical learning to allow the masses
the right to read as well as provided a model
lora democratic society. The Marathas would
have restored the brahmanicaLright ot way.
But the enduring strength of"
brahmanical civilisation was neither lost
nor defeated by the alien interregnum. This
is the error ot the neo-Aryans whose debased vision focussing forever on past fantasies blinds them to the facts ol religious
history. Hinduism survived the loreign onslaught not only intact but enriched, thanks
to the strength of character of the
true Hindu. They, unlike the votaries oi the monotheistic faiths,
displayed remarkable freedom,
adaptability and fearlessness
oi mind.
Thus, the neo-Aryans seem
to be fighting a battle that is
already won. Their concern tor
Hinduism's vitality is misconceived. Hinduism beat the odds and was shaping up as
a modern faith worthy ol international respect until its reputation was besmirched by
a lunatic fringe whose feelings were played
upon by reactionary right-wing politicians
al Ayodhya.
The real battle the neo-Aryans fight shy
of facing is reconciliation of caste imperatives and regional identities Already, the
BJP's flourish ol Sanskrit in Parliament has
led to Tamil being ollicially imposed on
Signboards in the South. The lolly of this
confrontation supports my thesis that what
we are seeing in today's hung parliament are
ingredients ot a Mohen|odaro recontest,
between the rude and arrogant inserters of
ads for lair brides and the mass reality ol
well-tanned kisans, the elitist raisers ot urban railings versus the deprived who are
determined to share their lifestyle.
For India to have a prime minister Irom
a Dravidian state and a speaker from a
Mongol minority background seems the
best medicine to bring home to the neo-
Aryans how lar-fetched their assumptions
about India's composite identity are. The
pseudo-nationalism of the Sangh Parivar
stands exposed by the destruction of the
Babri Masjid. Real nationalists do not destroy national monuments.
B. Aitken is a traveller and writer who lives
alternately in Delhi and Mussoorie.
HIMAL South Asia  July   1996
A South Asian Labour Rights Charter
Why Not?
ALL THE MAJOR trade unions, federations,
labour support organisations from India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and
Nepal who gathered for the first time in
Kathmandu in end-May agreed on one
thing—there must be a South Asian Charter
of Labour Rights.
In the past several years, diplomats,
writers, artists, scientists, social activists,
lawyers and development-wallas have had
their South Asian meets. So why should
labour unions stay aloof from this very
positive trend towards regional understanding and cooperation?
The South Asian Consultation on
Lahour Rights in Kathmandu was the culmination of work begun in early 1995, when
the major trade unions and support groups
from India and representatives from
neighbouring countnes met to discuss the
proposal to introduce a social clause (on
labour and environmental standards in international trade) as part oi the World Trade
The meeting overwhelmingly rejected
the inclusion of the clause because it felt
it would be used by the industrialised
countries lo deny South Asian goods
access to their markets. But, at the same
time, they decided to seek alternatives to
help improve the labour rights situation in
the Subcontinent.
The 35 labour organisations represented
in Kathmandu agreed upon the principles
to govern the formulation of the South
Asian Charter of Lahour Rights, whose goal
would be "to establish basic labour nghts in
all South Asian countries, bringing all labour
laws in conformity with the relevant UN and
1LO Conventions and Declarations and thei r
harmonisationinto an enablingSoulh Asian
Labour Code."
That was not all. As J. John, the spokesman for Consultation, stated, "The South
Asian labour organisations also demand the
establishment of a SAARC code ol conduct
fortransnational corporations', establishment
of an institutional mechanism which provides a SAARC work permit which would
protect the rights of workers; establishment
ol a mechanism to protect working people
in border areas of South Asian countries
Irom detention and atrocities, labour rights
commissions in all South Asian countries to
monitor the labour rights and implementation of laws, and a regional commission at
ihe SAARG level "
Secretary General ol SAARC, N'aeem
L'ddin Hasan, responded positively to the
initiative, saying that the coming together of
the labour representatives was significant.
Pointing out that the 1.1 areas ot cooperation
identified by SAARC (agriculture, communications, health, population, etc.) did not
include labour, he said, "We would consider proposing the inclusion of labour as
one ot the areas ot cooperation in the next
SAARC official meeting." He also suggested
that the united labour body seek the status
of a "SAARG Regional Apex Body" to facilitate long-term regional cooperation.
No Tokenism
There was no mere token presence at the
Kathmandu conference. It boasted some of
the most powerful labour organisat ions from
all over the subcontinent, including ihe
Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India
Trade Union Congress, Hind MajdoorSabha
of India, Pakistan Trade Union Federation,
All Pakistan Trade Union Organisation,
Railway Worker's Union of Pakistan,
Bangladesh Garments Workers & Employees Federation, National Workers Federation of Bangladesh, Public Sector Trade
Union Federation, United Federation ot
Labour, Sri Lanka, and the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions
All these organisations will be busy in
the coming three months, organising
national conlerences lor a thorough
discussion on the proposed Charter The
final formulation and subsequent
adoption of the document will come up in
the next consultation to be held in three
months' time.
The resolution adopted in Kathmandu
states thai, for all of South Asia's social ills,
the situation is even more grave lor workers.
Not more than 10 percent of South Asia's
workers are unionised, and a large portion
of the rest are in the informal sector where
they are denied basic lahour rights
Globalisation and structural adjustment
programmes are resulting in increased unemployment and a drastic deterioration in
living and working conditions for labour
"The disturbing tact is that the process ot
lnformahsanon in the industrial sector is
increasing," said the resolution,
Muchkund Dubey, India's former Foreign Secretary and who is closely associated
with the formulation ofthe Lahour Charter,
said that there was a need for "genuine
regional solidarity" among the trade unions
so as to articulate their interesls in a coordinated manner. This was because ihe international economic system was undergoing a
process oi reorganisation on the basis oi
economic regions, "so much so that
transnational capital is initiating investment
and managerial policies and programmes in
terms of regions."
There were other, even more pressing matters that were raised by the labour representatives, and activism in terms ol fish-workers seemed to indicate the shape of things to
come in the labour movement in Soulh Asia.
Muhammad Junaid A wan ol Pakistan's
Worker's Confederation, Thomas Kocherry
of India's National Fishworker's Forum, and
N. Saranapala De Silva of the United Federa-
uon ol Labour (Sri Lanka) had common
questions: Why, forihe last two years, were
191 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails and
21 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails? Why
did Indian coastguards continuously harass
Sri Lankan fishermen, and why did
Bangladesh regularly arrest Indian fishermen and conliscate their boats?
For the first time. South Asian labour
organisations have jointly demanded the
cancellation ot all the licences given to foreign industrial (leers in Indian deep seas.
This has depleted the tish resources in the
Indian Ocean and caused endless havoc to
the livelihood of fisher folks among Soulh
Asia's coastal communities.
A letter to the Indian Prime Minister
demanded that ihe Indian Ocean be saved
from destructive fishing practices. Failure
of the government to act would result in
united action by South Asian trade unions
against the Indian deep sea fishing policy.
That would be the start ol regional trade-
Muhul is with the Navbharat Times, Delhi.
Julv   1996   HIMAL South Asia
 Surplus of Deficit
THE COMMON STRING that binds all ftouth
Asian economies is the ever-menacing problem
of fiscal deficit. The region's finance ministers
always have a diflicult time presenting deficit
budgets, for they can only otfer short term corrective action which do not really tackle the
structural correctives that are required
The gap between revenue and expenditure
is ever-widening and is a maner ol grave concern
for every Soulh Asian country. While inflation
plagues all of them, the high deficit has curbed
the growth ofthe Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The remedial measure of privatising industries to
generate revenues has only been partially successful, and high government borrowings have
raised regional interest rates [none of the highest
in ihe world
In a scenario where political dominance
over economic issues prevails and hunger for
power results in populist moves such as providing subsidies and sanctioning profligate feelgood schemes, the burden on the state exchequer is immense.
The fiscal deficit in tbe region has hovered
around five and six percent, bringing down the
GDP growth to below four percent India, which
generates 80 percent ol South Asia's GDP, has
been raising the price ol petroleum products.
The purpose, which could be considered ridiculous, was to bridge tbe fiscal deficit gap. However, tbe move is will have a cascading dtect on
prices of all commodities. Infhii ion that has been
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610.1            i
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!      COLOMBO
KSE 100 INDEX  !         NEPSE
kept at single digits lor the past lew years may
rise, leading to the vicious circle of higher interest rates, lower economic activities, higher deficits resulting m higher borrowing
The way out may be a long drawn policy on
encouragement of economic activities. Foreign
Direct Investment (FDD inflows in infrastructure
are a necessity coupled with a transparent business environment that induces public accountability. PDI investment in developing countries
is expanding at 10 percent per year, but the
figure rests at a low 3 percent lor the South Asian
economies. The challenge is to increase the FDI-
to-GDP ratio in these regions. Unlike other trade
blocs, where mtra-regional trade bails out nations with problems, this safety valve is no!
available to the economies ol our region. Here,
ml.ra-regional trade is under five percent of the
region's trade, requiring the economics to have
more of a global vision.
Fiscal discipline can be brought in by
rationalising expenditure and simplifying revenue collect ion, administration and proceedures.
The parallel economies created in the countries
of South Asian have helped sustain trade activities in Dubai or Singapore. The curtailment of
flight of capital aided by plugging of revenue
leakage shall contribute to narrowing the gap.
While reforms are underway in the region, the
speed of integration shall determine the destiny
of these nations.
-Sujeex Shakya
A.v of 20 June Vd compared with 23 May "96
Price of a Dollar
Bangladeshi Indian
Tak a Rupees
Pakistani Sri Lankan
Rupees Rupees
Price of 10 grams of Gold (in USD)
Bombay Kalhmandu
per capita
USD (billion)
PPP estimates of GNP
per capita
J 330
4.2%'                   lft|ft|,6%    llSft
3.8%                           9.7%
NEPAL                                 200
. 12.1%     -
640 ..
Source: World Development Report, 1996.
HIMAL South Asia   July   1996
TornacIo TaIes
fcy Deepa Grover
IT CAME WITHOUT warning. Ferocious
and violent. It lasted for just a few very
terrifying minutes...and then it was gone.
The unreal calm that followed was in utter
contrast to the devastation it left in its
wake. In time, the calm was pierced by the
cry of an infant. She was fortunate. She had
survived. She had not been sucked into the
vortex of the debris created by one of the
most wrathful of weather monsters: the
just before sunset on 13 May this year,
the tornado roared into the Tangail-
Jamalpur area of central Bangladesh, some
100 km north of Dhaka. It was the worst in
recent memory. Standing crops were
snatched into the air. Houses were
smashed, their tin roofs pulled into all
directions. Trees were uprooted. Power
connections were snapped.
The 'twister' which ripped across the
countryside at a mind-boggling 200 kms
per hour, reduced 80 villages to indistinguishable rubble. Raging debns killed over
700 men, women and children. More than
34,000 were wounded. Crushed limbs,
skull fractures, lacerations and contusions
were the commonest injuries. In some
cases, rice grains had flown with such
intense speed that they had punctured and
penetrated human flesh like so many thousand stumpy needles. Almost everyone in
the 15 km path of the tomado received
some injury—major or minor.
When they saw the clouds gathering,
the inhabitants of Tangail thought it was
another nor'wester in the making. In
Bangladesh, summer is the time for
nor'wester or kalboishaki storms which are
characterised by strong winds and crashing, pelting thunderstorms. People rush
for cover when the kalboishaki comes.
Once the storm passes, it is business as
usual, Nor'westers are not necessarily
friendly, but they are an inevitable feature
ofthe hottest months. They are even welcomed because they bring respite from the
oppressive heat.
It is for this reason that
the few people who did hear
the storm warning on 13 May
did not pay too much attention to their radio sets. In any
case, May is a busy month for
peasant farmers who work
Atypical killer tornado
This pile of rubble was once
Meenu and Naresh's home
from dawn to dusk harvesting paddy. This
activity proved to be fateful this year, for
most of those who were outdoors on the
day that the tornado struck, were either
injured or killed. As they scrambled for
shelter they were battered unmercifully by
a variety of airborne missiles—branches,
stones, razor-edged tin roofs, household
items...anything that the winds could uproot or unfasten.
Forty-year-old Zarina of village Koilla was
cooking the evening meal when she suddenly heard a furious wind. She ran out of
the house and found that the sky had
turned a fiery red. A huge chunk of earth
flashed past her. "I have never seen such a
violent storm in my whole life nor ever
heard of anything like this," she said in a
voice choked with emotion. All of Zarina's
three sons were badly injured.
In the village of Mirikpur, 10-year-old
Nanda courageously threw himself over
his sleeping baby sister Mukti. She survived. Her brother, in shielding her, received serious head injuries. Their parents
did not live to see them. Nanda and Mukti's
father was crushed under a falling tree and
their mother buried under the rubble of a
collapsed portion of the house.
Perhaps some of Nanda's friends were
among the children of Mirikpur
Gangacharan Tafshili High School who
were killed when the building they were in
came crashing down. There were
innumberable other distressing stories.
Widowed men and women, orphaned
children and bereaved families everywhere—dazed and uncomprehending. In
the time that it took for the storm to pass,
lives were changed permanently and minds
scarred forever.
It will be a long time before the survi-
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-  '.'-:-"*.'■■,-tv.:*'....-.'■.->:-■
July  1996  HIMAL South Asia
 vors of the Tangail tornado can piece together their shattered lives. The blow of
their personal tragedies was somewhat
softened by the spontaneous assistance
and care offered by their neighbours from
unaffected areas as well as by governmental and non-govemmental relief teams.
The tornado victims needed all the help
they could get.
Everything had been swept away by
the howling winds—their houses, food,
the utensils they used for cooking, their
savings, children's school books, clothes,
Shamsuzzaman, a photojou rnalist
who visited some of the tornado-hit villages a week after the disaster had this to
say: "1 was deeply impressed by the resilience ofthe people there. They had lost all
that they possessed and yet there seemed
to be a strong sense of determination among
them...the resolve to make a new beginning was almost palpable."
Meterologists and scientists tell us that
although they have been studying the tornadoes for a long time, much still remains
to be leamt about the phenomena. The
word tornado comes from the Spanish
tronada (thunderstorm), derived from the
Latin tornare (to make round by turning).
The tornado is the most violent of
atmospheric storms that are caused by low
air pressure. It consists of a powerful vortex or "twister", whose speed as it spins
about can easily go up to 480 km per hour,
and in some instances may exceed 800 km
per hour. The intense updraft that occurs
near the twister's centre is capable of lifting
quite heavy objects such as trees and cars
into the air and of upending even heavier
objects such as railway cars or aircraft.
There is relatively low pressure right
at the centre of the tornado's funnel-like
vortex. This causes cooling and condensation, thus making the storm visible as a
revolving column of cloud, called the funnel. The lower portion of the tornado
funnel often appears as a mass of dust and
debris picked up by the vortex. The rim of
the funnel is usually rendered visible by
clouds produced by the condensation of
water vapour. The path of the average
tornado averages only 700 metres in width
(although there can be great variation),
but they can travel over tens of kilometres
wreaking havoc before they lose strength.
Tornadoes are generated from severe
thunderstorms, which form readily when
warm, moist winds clash with cool, dry
ones. The precise atmospheric requirements involved in the generation of tornadoes, however, are not completely understood. Tornadoes often form a line of thunderstorms along what is known as a squall
line and generally travel from southwest to
northeast, although those that develop from
tropical cyclones travel from east to west.
Besides Bangladesh, countries reporting tornadoes include Australia, Great Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany,
The Netherlands, Hungary, India, Italy
and Japan.
The first visible indication of tornado
development is usually a funnel cloud,
which extends downward from the cumulonimbus cloud of a severe thunderstorm.
As this funnel dips earthward, it becomes
darker because of the debris forced into its
intensifying vortex. Some tornadoes give
no visible warning until their phenomenal
destruction strikes down on the unsuspecting victims.
The areas with the greatest potential
for casualties are those that combine a high
tornado incidence with a thick population
concentration. Tornadoes may occur any
month ofthe year, but are most, numerous
in summer. Although they may strike at
any hour ofthe day or night, they generally
form during the afternoon or evening,
between 3 pm and 7 pm, which is the
period most favourable for the development of the severe thunderstorms from
which they are bred.
According to Mir Fakhrul Qayyam,
the Director of Bangladesh's Meterological
Office, there is no established mechanism
to measure the strength of the tornado.
Indeed tornadoes destroy all standard mea-
Shurat of village kolya was swooped up by
the 13 May tornado. He lost consciousness
as his body was whirled. Luckily for him he
landed in a pond where he was found
battered and bruised the next day.
suring instruments, hence most values
given for velocity, pressure and energy
distribution have to depend on theory
and estimates of structural damage after
the event.
Some advances have been made in
tornado detection and warning systems,
including analysis of surface and upper air
weather, detection and tracking of atmospheric changes by radar, and spotting
severe local storms. At the same time,
many more ways of gathering and communicating information about tornado
formation and movement need to be developed, in order to help people take appropriate precautions. A
I enjoyed your article about planes in "Yonng
SouthAsian" of the April issue. It taught me a lot
more than I knew about planes. I had no idea that
people took up watching planes as a hobby.
Zain Omar Ali
Sunbeams School, Dhaka
Virtual Vortices
.Hollywood's latest offering is.a purely illusory, digitised temado. Film director Jan De
Bont's Twister is Hollywood's latest blockbuster offering. It follows on the trend of films
having menacing,non-human protagonists which, was started by the film The Towering
Injemo (fire), and continued by films like Earthquake, jaws (sharks) and Swarm (bees).
The central 'character* of Twister is a computer-generated tornado. The film cost
USD 85 million to make and harnessed the talents of 60 computer-graphic artists from
Industrial Light and Magic company of Northern California—the number one special
effects (FX) house of the United States,
While the 'human' parts ofthe film was shot on location in Oklahoma, which is hit
by natural tornadoes all the time, the real work of creating fake clouds, wind vortices and
: whirling debris was done at a high-power Silicon Graphics workstation: Altogether, 25
minutes of storm scenes were fabricated digitally and combined on film with real actors
and location footage,
Newsweek (20- May, 1996) warns, "Don't try this on your laptop; Twister's shots take
up to 17 trillion bytes (equivalent to about 12 million floppy discs) of memory. The state:
of art FX cost 15 million dollars,"
Ironic isn't it, that while some people lose everything they have to real tornadoes,
. others create artificial ones to improve their material weli-being?
HIMAL South Asia July   1996
 Abominably Yours
(Editor's Note: In response to popular
demand, this installment does not
contain any reference to bodily
functions of any kind and has been
rated PG.)
Strolling through the park in Jakarta
below a towering obelisk that locals
reverently call Sukarno's Last Erection, I
was suddenly struck by the strong whiffs
of the Subcontinent this far out on the
edge of the Pacific. The flamboyant
sculpture of a Ramayana chariot charging
across a traffic island on Thamrin Avenue
seemed to belong more to BJP-
ruled Delhi than to the capital of
the world's most-populous
Muslim nation.
Through the din of puttering
Bajaj scooter-taxis came the
unmistakable sound of a demonstration being broken up by riot
police. The rally in question was
being led by a person named
Meghawati Sukarno-Putn
(daughter of the clouds and of
Sukarno at the same time, if you
know your Sanskrit). As female
offspring of a former leader
removed in a coup, Meghawati is
Indonesia's answer to Indira,
Benazir, Chandrika and Hasina.
People who think of the
South Asian diaspora as just the
East End of London or the Keralite
suburbs of Dubai are wrong by a couple
of millennia. It is much older than the
sardarjis of Vancouver or the
Punjabi-Hispanic communities of the
southern United States. It goes further
back than V.S. Naipaul's ancestors in
Trinidad and the Gorakhpun cane-cutters
in Fiji, or even the out-migration of
Gypsies from Rajasthan.
For whatever reason, maybe floods
or perhaps volcanic activity, early South
Asians ventured out from the Subcontinent nearly 1500 years ago. They crept
down (up, if you do not believe that
north is up) through Burma and Siam to
Cambodia. Another group branched off
down the Malay peninsula to set up the
vibrant Sri Vijaya maritime empire in what
is now Java and Bali.
Here, they still call their money
" rupiah" while we've gone Anglicised
with " rupees". Their airline is called
"Garuda" from Vishnu's own winged
transport, while the farthest we've gone
is to caii ours "Biman".
Off Surabaya is the island of Madura
transplanted straight out of Krishna's
birthplace, and in Bali they have Muslim
brahmins. Remnants of Sanskrit
placenames peer from below layers of
Malay and Portuguese Sulawesi Utara is
Northern Sulawesi, there are remote
slands off Flores with names like
Sankhapura, a smouldering volcano on
Java named Mount Arjuna.
It was while flying back to South Asia
on Garuda via Singapore (named after
ions—Singhapur—but now an Asian
tiger) and trying to pick out the Sanskrit
words in the Bahasa flight safety announcements that I got to thinking about
names and what makes people want to
change them all the time
The Sn Vijaya Empire at one time
stretched northwards across Borneo to
the Philippines where dictator Ferdinand
Marcos much much later decided it was
preposterous that his archipelago should
be named after an obscure potentate
who lived in Madrid in the 16th century.
Rightly so. So he issued a presidential
decree announcing that the country had
been renamed "Maharlika", which is
what the Sn Vijayans called everything
north of Mindanao,
The name would have probably
stuck, had some wicked Hispanophile not
spread the canard that Maharlika in
Sanskrit means "big phallus". It does not,
as far as my own rusty Sanskrit goes, but
the dictator quickly cancelled his decree
and reverted to the name King Philip
bestowed on his nation. (Much more
likely that the original derived from
Mahapalika, the big protector, than
Other efforts to rename nations have
similarly come to naught, Kampuchea
springs to mind. Myanmar, as far as
know, is used only by the country's
national airline and the United Nations
despite a recent SLORC threat that any
magazine using Burma will be banned in
Yangon, Watch out, Himal.
Us females understand this curse:
you are happily Indira Nehru, and
suddenly overnight, as it were, you turn
into an Indira Gandhi, Indira knew there
were certain political advantages associated with the name of the Mahatma so
she kept it The rest of us are not so
lucky and know the trauma of Zeba
Varma turning into a Zeba
Sodabottleopenerwala after popping
the cork and tying the knot. Changing
established names is a very male-centred,
macho, unfeminine thing to do. You'll
notice only male politicians and
generals with edifice complexes
who do it.
So I sympathise when my
.J=r—-~>    Bombay friends suddenly find
they have to wade through
traffic at Hutatma Chowk, past
Kranhveer Vasudev Balwant Chowk, to
get to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
so they can get the hell out of Mumbai.
And now, there is a fight between
Sahar (nee Santa Cruz) airport and the
Victoria Terminus about which one
should be named after the great
Maratha Moghul-slayer. Why not
both? While we're at it, rename
Bombay, the film, move on to spirits
(Mumbai Dry Gin), then to every
establishment whose names starts with
a 'B' (Mumbai Saree Palace, Mumbai
Over in Calcutta, the name-changing
seems to have subsided after the frenzy
ofthe Cultural Revolution of the 1970s in
which the state government deliberately
renamed the street where the US
consulate was located into Ho Chi Mmh
Saram. Renaming airports is the favourite
past-time of governments, but they only
seem to be interested in "international"
airports What's wrong with domestic
airports7 Why isn't Palam worthy of its
own national figure to be named after?
What's wrong with Indira Gandhi
Domestic Airport7
In Nepal, they set up a Committee to
think of new names for Himalayan
mountains. We're lucky they did not
go for deceased but illustrious Nepalis,
of which there is such a scarcity.
(There is also a dire shortage of living
illustrious Nepalis.) Imagine the headlines;
"Indians Conquer Prithvi
Narayan", "Aussies
Assault Arniko" or
"Bhrikuti Virgin No
More". Even Meghawati
would draw the line at a
volcano being named
after her.
HIMAL South Asia
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